Leisure sedentary behaviours are associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease, but whether this relationship is causal is unknown. The aim of this study is to identify genetic determinants associated with leisure sedentary behaviours and to estimate the potential causal effect on coronary artery disease (CAD). Genome wide association analyses of leisure television watching, leisure computer use and driving behaviour in the UK Biobank identify 145, 36 and 4 genetic loci (P < 1×10−8), respectively. High genetic correlations are observed between sedentary behaviours and neurological traits, including education and body mass index (BMI). Two-sample Mendelian randomization (MR) analysis estimates a causal effect between 1.5 hour increase in television watching and CAD (OR 1.44, 95%CI 1.25–1.66, P = 5.63 × 10−07), that is partially independent of education and BMI in multivariable MR analyses. This study finds independent observational and genetic support for the hypothesis that increased sedentary behaviour by leisure television watching is a risk factor for CAD.