Your Desk Job is Killing You: Kidney Disease Edition

We already know that sitting is killing us. People with sedentary lifestyles have been found to have a higher risk of cancer, are more likely to die of cardiovascular disease and are 90 percent more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than their less sedentary counterparts. Now we can add kidney disease to the list of ways our desk jobs may be eroding our health.

A new study, to be presented at a meeting of the American Society of Nephrology from November 3 to 8, found that for every additional 80 minutes a person spent sitting per day (compared to the mean), their likelihood of developing chronic kidney disease rose by 20 percent. The study, which looked at 5,873 adults with a variety of health backgrounds, assumed the average person is awake for 16 hours a day.

What’s more, that risk increase persisted regardless of whether a person added moderate or vigorous exercise to their day. As long as they were sitting for a substantial amount of time, their risk for kidney disease rose and rose.

“Sedentary behavior, which is not mere lack of moderate/vigorous physical activity, is likely an independent risk factor for chronic kidney disease,” Srini Beddhu, a doctor at the University of Utah School of Medicine and an author on the study said in a statement. He added that it remains to be seen whether sitting also changes how chronic kidney disease progresses, and whether or not it can contribute to the disease developing into a more severe form of the illness known as “end stage renal disease.” That’s when your kidneys cease functioning well enough to adequately remove waste and excess water from your system.

“Hence, interventions targeting sedentary behavior to slow the progression of chronic kidney disease need to be conducted,” he said.

This is not the first study to link sitting time to kidney disease, but it does paint a bleaker picture about the irrelevance of physical activity to reducing a sedentary person’s risk. A study published in 2012 found that both sedentary men and women were at significantly higher risk of developing kidney disease, but that men with a high level of physical activity during nonsitting hours could reduce their risk some. Women, however, could not. But Beddhu’s study showed no significant difference at all. If you sit, your risk goes up, period.

Kidney disease afflicts one in every 10 adults in the U.S., or more than 20 million people nationally.

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