Sitting can increase the risk of heart attack by 50%.

Routine chair work associated with a sedentary lifestyle is a health risk. (Photo: Unsplash)

It’s no news that a sedentary lifestyle increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. With the coronavirus pandemic and the shift from work to home office, having an exercise routine has become even more difficult. However, a Chinese study warns that people who sit for more than eight hours a day are 50% more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke.

The work, published in the journal JAMA Cardiology, followed more than 100,000 adults for 10 years. The thousands of participants, who live in more than 20 countries around the world, were on average 50 years old and were asked how many hours a day they spent sitting each week.

Based on their answers, they were divided into different groups. After 11 years, the results are alarming: there have been just over 6,200 deaths, 2,300 heart attacks, 3,000 strokes and 700 cases of heart failure, although not all have been fatal.

The results revealed that people who sat for eight hours a day had a 20% higher risk of having a heart attack or stroke and were 49% more likely to suffer from heart failure, compared to those who sat for only four hours a day.

The study also showed that exercising regularly during the week reduces the dangers of excessive sitting. Those who did about 12.5 hours of physical activity per week had a 17% risk of death. While for those who had practically only two and a half hours of activity, the risk was 50%.

The authors also compared the study results with smoking. The figures found in the two studies are similar. While 8.8% of deaths and 5.8% of heart disease cases were due to the combined effect of excessive sitting and physical inactivity, smoking caused 10.6% of deaths and 6. 6% of heart disease.

Lead author Wei Li said the results should lead people to sit less and be more active. UK charities and experts are recommending workers take breaks during working hours for exercise, such as short walks, and have asked employers to provide standing desks.

The UK Health Service, NHS, states that adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week, such as brisk walking, or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity per week, such as running. They should also do muscle-strengthening exercises at least two days a week.

“This study adds to what we already know about activity and our health, showing that sitting more than eight hours a day is at high risk for stroke. A great way to improve your cardiovascular health is to do 150 minutes of physical activity a week, that’s just half an hour for five days,” Chloe MacArthur from the British Heart Foundation told the Daily Mail.

Cardiovascular illnesses

In Brazil, this type of disease is the leader in mortality in Brazil. According to the Brazilian Society of Cardiology (SBC), approximately 14 million Brazilians suffer from heart disease and 400,000 die from the disease each year.

In the UK, around 160,000 people, or a quarter of all deaths in the country, are due to heart attacks – the equivalent of one death every three minutes.

In the United States, the disease is also the leader in lethality, killing an estimated 670,000 Americans annually.