Sitting for over 8 hours a day makes you 20% likelier to have a heart attack or stroke

Office workers are more prone to suffering heart attacks and strokes, another study has found. For decades, doctors have warned about the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle and its impact on organs like our heart. 

New research, which tracked 100,000 adults for over a decade, has prompted fresh calls for Britons stuck at their desks to get up and move.

Chinese experts found people who sit for eight hours a day — the equivalent of a 9-5 office employee skipping lunch — were 20 per cent more likely to suffer from a heart attack or stroke.

They were also 49 per cent more likely to have heart failure, compared to those who only sat for half that time.

The researchers claimed that reducing sitting time and increasing physical activity could achieve similar benefits to curbing smoking rates.

Charities urged workers to take regular exercise breaks and walk to work, and called on employers to provide stand-up desks.

People who sit for more eight hours a day are up 20 per cent more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke compared to those who sat for between four to eight hours, study suggests


To stay healthy, adults aged 19 to 64 should try to be active daily and should do:

at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity such as cycling or brisk walking every week and
strength exercises on 2 or more days a week that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms)


75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity such as running or a game of singles tennis every week and
strength exercises on 2 or more days a week that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms)


a mix of moderate and vigorous aerobic activity every week – for example, 2 x 30-minute runs plus 30 minutes of brisk walking equates to 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity and
strength exercises on 2 or more days a week that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms)

A good rule is that 1 minute of vigorous activity provides the same health benefits as 2 minutes of moderate activity.

One way to do your recommended 150 minutes of weekly physical activity is to do 30 minutes on 5 days every week.

All adults should also break up long periods of sitting with light activity.

Academics at the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and Peking Union Medical College analysed data from 105,677 people.

Participants were split across 21 countries, had an average age of 50 and were asked about how many hours a day they spent sitting down each week.

Researchers then followed their health records over the next 11 years.

By the end of the study, there were just over 6,200 deaths.

There were also 2,300 heart attacks, 3,000 strokes and 700 cases of heart failure — though not all were fatal.

Participants were divided into different groups, based on how long they admitted to sitting for.

This allowed the researchers, whose findings were published in JAMA Cardiology, to work out if there was any trend.

Weekly exercise did help to reduce the dangers of excess sitting, the research also suggested.

Those who did the most — defined as twelve-and-a-half hours per week — only had a 17 per cent increased risk of death or death.

Whereas, those who did the least — less two-and-a-half hours per week — had a  50 per cent increased risk.

But the authors noted even the most active excess sitters had a similar risk of death or heart disease as infrequent sitters.

They also calculated that 8.8 per cent of deaths and 5.8 per cent of heart disease cases logged in the study period were due to the combined effect of excessive sitting and being physically inactive.

The authors said was comparable to smoking, which accounted for 10.6 per cent and 6.6 per cent.

Lead author Wei Li claimed that the findings should prompt people to stop sitting so much and be more active.

NHS advice states that adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week, like brisk walking, or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity a week, such as running.

They should also do muscle strengthening exercises on at least two days a week.

The British Heart Foundation’s Chloe MacArthur said: ‘This study adds to what we already know about activity and our health by showing that sitting down for more than eight hours a day poses an elevated risk of stroke.’

She urged office workers to try and get 30 minutes of exercise either before or after work and to ask their boss for a standing desk.

‘A great way to improve your cardiovascular health is to aim for 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity a week, which is only half an hour five days a week.

‘This could be done before or after the working day, by going for a walk or taking an exercise class for example.’

Ms MacArthur added: ‘Employers can also help in ways such as providing standing desks in offices for employees.’

Heart and circulatory diseases cause a quarter of all deaths in the UK, about 160,000 a year, equivalent to one fatality every three minutes.

In the US heart disease is the leading cause for Americans — killing 659,000 people each year, roughly one every 36 seconds.

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