Sitting at a desk for nine-and-a-half hours a day increases the risk of early death, a study has found.
The research, published in the BMJ, found that middle-aged and older people who live sedentary lives are up to two and a half times more likely to die early.
That risk remains even if the sitting down is broken up by standing and walking - the way people who have a desk job tend to operate.
People who did regular physical activity were about five times less likely to die early than those who were not physically active, while even light activity like cooking or washing-up could help lessen the risk, the research found.
The study analysed existing research on physical activity and mortality in nearly 36,400 adults aged 40 and older.
Their activity levels were monitored at the start of the research using devices that track physical movements and were categorised into “light intensity” such as slow walking, “moderate activity” like brisk walking, vacuuming or mowing the lawn and “vigorous activity” such as jogging or digging.
Researchers found that any level of physical activity, regardless of intensity, was associated with a substantially lower risk of early death.
People who did light intensity activity for about five hours a day, or moderate to vigorous activity for 24 minutes a day had the most health benefits and there were roughly five times as many deaths among the 25% of least active people compared with the 25% most active.
Researchers looked separately at sedentary behaviour and found that sitting still for nine-and-a-half hours or more was linked to a higher risk of early death.
The most sedentary people, who spent an average of nearly ten hours a day sitting, were at 163% higher risk of dying before they might have been expected to during than the least sedentary, who sat for an average of seven and a half hours.
Ulf Ekelund, of the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences in Oslo, who led the research, said: “Our findings provide clear scientific evidence that higher levels of total physical activity, regardless of intensity, and less sedentary time are associated with lower risk of premature mortality in middle-aged and older people.”
Commenting on the research Jess Kuehne, of the Centre for Ageing Better, said: “If we want to be healthy and independent when we grow older, we need to do much more in our forties and fifties.
“As well as aerobic exercise like taking brisk walks, cycling or swimming, we also need to be boosting the strength in our muscles and bones and improving our balance.
“It’s not just about adding years to our life, it’s about adding life to our years and increasing the time that we stay fit, healthy and free from long-term health conditions or disability.”