If you’ve visited a health website in the past five or so years, you know that sitting is the new smoking. Now, there’s more data to add to the pile of research showing that excessive sitting is hazardous to your health: a new study in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that people who sat for longer uninterrupted periods of time had an increased likelihood of dying over the course of the study. But on a more hopeful note, the study suggested that getting up at least every half hour could help.
Excessive sitting has been linked to everything from increased risk of obesity and depression to heart disease, as Clifton Leaf pointed out in Tuesday’s Fortune Brainstorm Health newsletter. This new study comes from researchers at institutions including Weill Cornell Medical Center, University of Michigan and Columbia University Medical Center.
Unlike many health studies, the new research didn’t rely on self-reported data (which can often lead to flawed results). Instead, the researchers had 7,985 participants over 45-years-old wear a hip-mounted gadget called an accelerometer that tracked their movement and sitting habits. Participants were instructed to wear the gadget during their waking hours for seven consecutive days, according to the study. The researchers followed up with participants about four years later, during which time 340 of them had died. Participants were split into four groups based on how much uninterrupted sitting time they got, and after adjusting for various health risks like smoking and alcohol consumption, the researchers calculated which groups had the greatest risk of death over the study period.
They found that people who sat the least overall and for the shortest periods at a stretch had the lowest rate of all cause mortality, according to the study. On the other hand, people who had longer total sitting time, and took fewer breaks from it, were more likely to die over the course of the study. Specifically, people who sat for more than 12.5 hours a day and sat with “uninterrupted bouts of 30 minutes or more” had the highest risk for death during the study period.
Most adults are sedentary for 9 to 10 hours per day, the study noted, although many people spend much more time than that seated. The researchers can’t say exactly for how long or how often people should be taking breaks from sitting during the day, but they did find that sitting for “60 to 89 and 90 or more minutes was associated with a greater risk of all cause mortality,” while sitting in “1 to 29 minute bouts was associated with less of an increased risk” for death, according to the study. Essentially, getting up at least every half hour—whether it be walking around the block or strolling to the kitchen—is a good habit to get into.
These findings are all the more reason to get up and get active, especially during the workday.
Read more about the findings here.