June 26 (UPI) -- Sitting for long periods of time has been linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease and early death, but a new study suggests that not all types of sitting are equally unhealthy.
The study found that black people who watched four or more hours of TV a day saw a 50 percent greater risk of suffering a heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular event and death versus those who watched less than two hours a day, according to a study published Wednesday in Journal of the American Heart Association.
Previous studies on the effects of sedentary lifestyles on cardiovascular disease risk have largely focused on white people. The researchers of this study focused on black people, a group with higher risk of heart disease.
"Our findings show that how you spend your time outside of work may matter more when it comes to heart health," Keith M. Diaz, assistant professor of behavioral medicine at Columbia University and study author, said in a news release. "Even if you have a job that requires you to sit for long periods of time, replacing the time you spend sitting at home with strenuous exercise could reduce your risk of heart disease and death."
For close to eight and a half years, the researchers followed nearly 3,600 black people living in Jackson, Miss. The participants tracked the time they spent sitting at work and while watching television, as well as how long they exercised during downtime.
The researchers found the significantly higher risk for heart disease, but found television itself -- not work -- increased the risk.
However, a study in April said television isn't to blame for all the sitting because all adults spent 6.4 hours sitting in front of computer screens, suggesting type of work could make a difference.
The good news is the TV watchers who walked or performed any moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise for 150 minutes or more each week lowered their heart attack, stroke and death risk.
"More research is needed, but it's possible that just taking a short break from your TV time and going for a walk may be enough to offset the harm of leisure-time sitting," Diaz said. "Almost any type of exercise that gets you breathing harder and your heart beating faster may be beneficial."