A new study suggests that people who sit and sleep too much every day, may have a risk of dying early similar to those who consume large amounts of alcohol and who smoke excessively.
In the “45 an Up” study of the Sax Institute – published December 8 in the journal PLOS Medicine – the researchers looked at more than 230,000 participants from Australia ages 45 and older.
The participants were asked whether they engaged in unhealthy behaviours, such as drinking alcohol, being physically inactive, smoking, eating unhealthy foods, having sedentary behaviour and sleeping more than nine hours each night.
The findings showed that more than thirty percent of the participants engaged in at least two or three of the aforementioned behaviours. About six years into the study, approximately 16,000 of the study participants had died, according to the researchers.
People who were physically active (defined by researchers as more than 150 minutes of physical activity per week) were 1.6 times less likely to die, compared with those who were not physically active.
Researchers also found that physical inactivity combined with too much sleep, or with sedentary behaviour, was as harmful as the combination of heavy drinking and smoking.
Melody Ding, senior research fellow at the Sydney School of Public Health, University of Sydney and lead author of the study, said that physical inactivity was strongly associated with higher mortality rates among the study participants.
The risk of death was four times higher in people who combined long sleep times with physical inactivity and long periods of sitting, compared with those who slept a lot and were quite sedentary, but were at least getting some exercise, according to Ding.
Other lifestyle practices that were not included in the study may have also influenced the mortality risks among the participants, the researchers noted. Moreover, the people’s interpretations of their behaviours could have been erroneous, thus distorting the results of the study.
That being said, the study shows that certain combinations of unhealthy behaviours may pose a bigger threat and the behaviours on their own. That means that getting rid of just one of them could show improvements for overall health, the researchers said.
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