Thomas Yates, MD, of the University of Leicester and the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust and leading researcher in this study, said:
"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. 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."
However, the results, which were published in the American Journal of Kidney Diseases, the official journal of the National Kidney Foundation, showed significant gender differences.
According to the team, from the University of Leicester, exercise was connected to a lower incidence of kidney disease, but men were more likely to balance out the negative impact of sitting for long periods through exercise.
In other words, explained Dr. Yates, men who sit for long periods of time, for instance at the office from 9 to 5 every day, can improve their health, particularly their kidney function, if they take part in traditional moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity. This includes brisk walking, jogging, or running on the treadmill.
However, exercising to make up for the negative effects of sitting is not as effective for women as it is for men. Females need to focus more on reducing prolonged periods of sitting time.
More than 5,650 participants (ages 40 to 75) were analyzed for the final results, and put into groups based on two factors: how long they spent sitting each day and the amount of time they spent exercising.
After controlling for certain lifestyle factors, the risk of developing chronic kidney disease (CKD) was decreased by more than 30% in females who reported fewer than 3 hours of sitting time, compared to those who reported over 8 hours.
Males who reported fewer than 3 hours of sitting down saw a reduction of 15%. Men who were physically active for at least 30 minutes each day, reduced the risk of developing CKD by at least 30%. However, exercise had no significant impact on the results of the women.
Previous research indicated that both male and female patients who are diagnosed with CKD can benefit from exercising regularly. For example, they will see improved physical fitness, healthier blood pressure, healthier heart rates, and better nutritional characteristics, compared to those who do not exercise.
Since this current study is the first of its kind to show a link between sitting for a long period, independent of exercise, with an increased risk of kidney disease, more research needs to be done to better understand the relationship.
There had been several studies examining the impact exercise has on health. It has previously been linked to a lower risk of coronary artery disease, type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, and colon cancer. One particular study in Archives of Dermatology showed a link between physical activity and reduced risk of psoriasis.
Dr. Yates suggested that in order to improve the quality of kidney disease management programs, physical activity and reducing sitting time should be incorporated.
Dr. Kerry Willis, National Kidney Foundation Senior Vice President for Scientific and Medical Activities, said:
"This study is important because kidney disease is one of the most common chronic diseases. 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."