Occupational Sitting Time, Leisure Physical Activity, and All-Cause and Cardiovascular Disease Mortality

Wayne Gao, Mattia Sanna, Yea Hung Chen, Min Kuang Tsai, Chi Pang Wen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Importance: For the first time, the 2020 World Health Organization guidelines on physical activity recommended reducing sedentary behaviors owing to their health consequences. Less is known on the specific association of prolonged occupational sitting with health, especially in the context of low physical activity engagement. Objective: To quantify health risks associated with prolonged occupational sitting and to determine whether there is a certain threshold of physical activity that may attenuate it. Design, Setting, and Participants: This prospective cohort study included participants in a health surveillance program in Taiwan who were followed-up between 1996 and 2017. Data on occupational sitting, leisure-time physical activity (LTPA) habits, lifestyle, and metabolic parameters were collected. Data analysis was performed in December 2020. Main Outcomes and Measures: The all-cause and cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality associated with 3 occupational sitting volumes (mostly sitting, alternating sitting and nonsitting, and mostly nonsitting) were analyzed applying multivariable Cox regression models to calculate the hazard ratios (HRs) for all participants and by subgroups, including 5 LTPA levels and a personal activity intelligence (PAI)-oriented metric. Deaths occurring within the initial 2 years of follow-up were excluded to prevent reverse causality. Results: The total cohort included 481688 participants (mean [SD] age, 39.3 [12.8] years; 256077 women [53.2%]). The study recorded 26257 deaths during a mean (SD) follow-up period of 12.85 (5.67) years. After adjusting for sex, age, education, smoking, drinking, and body mass index, individuals who mostly sat at work had a 16% higher all-cause mortality risk (HR, 1.16; 95% CI, 1.11-1.20) and a 34% increased mortality risk from CVD (HR, 1.34; 95% CI, 1.22-1.46) compared with those who were mostly nonsitting at work. Individuals alternating sitting and nonsitting at work did not experience increased risk of all-cause mortality compared with individuals mostly nonsitting at work (HR, 1.01; 95% CI, 0.97-1.05). For individuals mostly sitting at work and engaging in low (15-29 minutes per day) or no (<15 minutes per day) LTPA, an increase in LTPA by 15 and 30 minutes per day, respectively, was associated with a reduction in mortality to a level similar to that of inactive individuals who mostly do not sit at work. In addition, individuals with a PAI score exceeding 100 experienced a notable reduction in the elevated mortality risk associated with prolonged occupational sitting. Conclusions and Relevance: As part of modern lifestyles, prolonged occupational sitting is considered normal and has not received due attention, even though its deleterious effect on health outcomes has been demonstrated. In this study, alternating between sitting and nonsitting at work, as well as an extra 15 to 30 minutes per day of LTPA or achieving a PAI score greater than 100, attenuated the harms of prolonged occupational sitting. Emphasizing the associated harms and suggesting workplace system changes may help society to denormalize this common behavior, similar to the process of denormalizing smoking.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E2350680
JournalJAMA network open
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 19 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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