Too much sitting equates to more than seven hours a day and too little exercise is defined as less than 150 minutes a week. This is the first study to look at how those things (sleep and sitting) might act together, said lead author Dr Melody Ding. When you add a lack of exercise into the mix, you get a type of triple whammy effect.

Our study shows that we should really be taking these behaviors together as seriously as we do other risk factors such as levels of drinking and unhealthy eating patterns, Dr Ding added. Dr Ding and her colleagues from University of Sydney analyzed the health behaviors of more than 230,000 of the participants in the 45 and Up Study.

They looked at lifestyle behaviors like smoking, high alcohol intake, poor diet and being physically inactive and added excess sitting time and too little/too much sleep into the equation. The team found another problematic triple threat: smoking, high alcohol intake and lack of sleep (less than seven hours a night) is also linked to a more than four-times greater risk of early death.

The take-home message is that if we want to design public health program mes that will reduce the massive burden and cost of lifestyle-related disease we should focus on how these risk factors work together rather than in isolation, explained study co-author professor Adrian Bauman.

Better understanding what combination of risk behaviors poses the biggest threat will guide us on where to best target scarce resources to address this major - and growing - international problem, the authors noted in a paper published in the journal PLOS Medicine.

Latest News from Lifestyle News Desk