Sitting and cancer

Sedentary behaviour is anything you do while sitting or lying down, excluding sleeping. Examples of sedentary behaviours include sitting and watching TV, lying on the sofa reading a book, driving to work, and sitting at a desk or computer.

Recent research shows that long periods of sedentary behaviour can increase your risk of a variety of cancers including bowel, endometrial, ovarian and prostate cancers regardless of meeting physical activity guidelines. More time spent sitting also increases risk of developing heart disease and diabetes.

You can meet the physical activity guidelines of 30-60 minutes of moderate intensity activity most days but still lead a sedentary lifestyle if a big part of your day involves sitting or lying down.

Living a physically inactive lifestyle contributes to weight gain. Being overweight or obese is also a risk factor for several major cancers including stomach, bowel, oesophageal, pancreatic, gallbladder, post-menopausal breast, endometrial, kidney, liver and prostate (advanced) cancers.

It’s very easy to sit too much. A typical day might involve eating breakfast, driving to work, sitting at your desk all day, driving home, sitting at the table for dinner, and then watching TV in the evening. But to reduce your risk of cancer it is important to reduce sedentary behaviours and move more.

How can I reduce the time I spend sitting?

In addition to meeting the physical activity guidelines, it is important to decrease and break up long periods of sitting or lying in your day.

Tips to reduce sedentary behaviour:
• Stand up and move about during ad breaks when watching TV
• When talking on your mobile phone, walk around instead of sitting
• Set a reminder on your phone or computer to get up and move once an hour
• Don’t eat your lunch at your desk, move to another location or outside
• Go for a walk with colleagues after eating your lunch
• Instead of emailing your work colleague, walk over to them and tell them in person
• Stand on public transport and get off one stop early or park your car a 5-10 min walk from your destination
• Have walking or standing meetings rather than seated meetings
• If possible, adjust the height of your desk/computer so you can sometimes stand while working
• Set screen time limits for you and your children, participate in active play with the family by going to the park or walking the dog

More information

Image: AICR

Image: AICR