Sitting for Long Stretches Linked to Kidney Disease

Exercising to offset the negative effects of sitting could be more effective for men

New York, NY (October 1, 2012) – Couch potatoes may have to contend with more than obesity and sore limbs. Sitting for long periods of time has now been linked to the development of kidney disease, according to a new study published in the October issue of the American Journal of Kidney Diseases, the official journal of the National Kidney Foundation.

“It is currently not known how sedentary time or physical activity directly impact kidney health, but less sitting and more physical activity is associated with increased cardiovascular health through improvements to blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose metabolism, and arterial health,” said lead researcher Thomas Yates, MD, of the University of Leicester and the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust. “While this study confirms the growing body of literature that supports a link between lifestyle factors and the development of chronic kidney disease, it also adds to the evidence that simply sitting less may have important health benefits.”

The researchers, from the University of Leicester, also found a striking difference in outcomes for men and women. While exercise, generally, correlated with lower incidence of kidney disease; men were more likely to offset the negative effects of sitting time through physical activity.

“This suggests that, in terms of kidney function, traditional moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity, such as brisk walking, jogging or running on the treadmill may be more important for men, whereas reducing prolonged periods of sitting time may be more important for women,” said Dr. Yates.

The final results were based on over 5,650 people between ages 40-75 years. Patients were categorized according to the amount of time they spent sitting each day and also the amount of moderate to vigorous physical exercise they practiced.

The findings showed that, when adjusted for lifestyle factors, the chances of having CKD were reduced by over 30 percent in women who reported under 3 hours of sitting time compared to those reporting more than 8 hours of sitting time, while in men the chances of having CKD were reduced by around 15 percent under the same conditions. Compared to those who were inactive, regular physical activity, such as 30 minutes of walking per day, lowered the chances of having CKD by at least 30 percent for men, whereas for women physical activity did not significantly impact CKD results.

Dr. Yates said that more research into sitting time and kidney disease is needed, but that this study is the first of its kind to link higher levels of sitting time, independent of exercise, with a higher risk of kidney disease. He noted that physical activity and reducing sitting time should be part of a quality kidney disease management program.

“This study is important because kidney disease is one of the most common chronic diseases,” said Dr. Kerry Willis, National Kidney Foundation Senior Vice President for Scientific and Medical Activities. “Twenty six million Americans are affected and millions more worldwide. Kidney disease prevention and treatment should include a lifestyle intervention such as physical activity and reduced sedentary behavior, in addition to careful control of blood pressure and lipid levels.”

The National Kidney Foundation, a major voluntary nonprofit health organization, is dedicated to preventing kidney disease, improving the health and well-being of individuals and families affected by kidney disease and increasing the availability of kidneys for transplantation. For more information, visit