From a statistical point of view, adults from the most developed countries tend to spend more than half of their day engaged in sedentary behavior of different kinds, either at work or at home. These people spend between 50% and 60% of their day sitting down for work or recreational purposes. This meta-analysis is of paramount importance because it adds literature and data showing that living a sedentary life can increase the risk for cancer, in addition to the risk for other life-threatening illnesses like obesity, diabetes or heart disease.
However, it must be said that the results of the study are only aimed at those three types of cancer, and that other common types of cancer (such as esophageal, prostate, breast or prostate cancer) seem to be unrelated. As the authors of the study claim, some biological mechanisms may be responsible for the connection between cancer and prolonged sedentary behavior. The mechanism of action is fairly simple: sitting down for a prolonged period of time, day after day, can lead to massive changes in the body. Hormone levels are affected, overall body weight tends to increase and the risk for tissue and organ inflammation is also significantly higher – and all these factors pave the way for certain types of cancer.
It is therefore suggested that people change their habits at their workplace, since they tend to spend an average of 8-10 hours at work on a daily basis. With some small yet efficient worksite adjustments, the risk for bowel, lung and endometrial cancer can be significantly reduced. Long sedentary periods are bad for the heart, circulatory system, metabolism and mental health.
Even though this meta-analysis is aimed exclusively at sitting down and not at the amount or lack of physical exercise, previous studies have revealed that people who exercise on a regular basis have a lower overall cancer risk, given that they tend to avoid obesity and have a normal weight range. Not only do people with an active lifestyle have a lower risk for cancer, but their overall lifespan tends to be longer and their risk for diabetes and heart disease is not as high as those who live sedentary lives.