Sitting all day is a dangerous behavior, even though it seems very harmless. Many studies in the past found that sedentary behavior is linked to poor health outcomes, such as early death, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Even going to the gym for 45-60 minutes may not be enough to counteract the negative effects of sedentary behavior. According to new research, however, short periods of exercise during the day can positively affect those who sit for long periods of time.
Health experts agree that the effects of regular physical activity are astonishing. Exercise is both prevention and medicine, just like flossing and brushing your teeth is to avoid cavities and dental issues. That’s why authors of a new study found that 20-25 minutes of daily exercise can make a major dent in the health of people who sit for long stretches. Continue reading to learn more about that study.
A Little Exercise Goes A Long Way
In the past, researchers noted that short bursts of exercise throughout the day helped counteract a sedentary lifestyle. New research, which drew data from four major studies from Norway, Sweden, and the United States, recorded health information from about 12,000 adults over the age of 50. The data was collected between 2003 and 2019, and participants wore physical activity tracking devices for a minimum of four days, at least 10 hours a day, and were monitored for four years.
Roughly 50% of the participants spent fewer than 10.5 hours sitting down every day. The rest of the participants clocked 10.5 or more sedentary hours per day. Based on previous research, the study authors estimated that adults in Western countries spend about nine to 10 hours a day being sedentary, mostly during working hours.
Researchers also looked at death registries and compared them to the data they found. About seven percent of participants in the study died during an average five-year follow-up period. The authors found that participants who sat for more than 12 hours per day had a 38% higher risk of death than those who were sedentary for high hours per day. Only the people who sat 12 hours a day and logged less than 22 daily minutes of moderate physical activity were at greater risk, researchers note.
The More Activity, The Lower The Risk Of Death
Researchers saw that an extra 10 minutes of daily exercise was associated with a 15% lower risk of death in those who spent fewer than 10.5 hours sitting. For those who sat more than 10.5 hours per day, that additional 10 minutes of activity had an even greater impact. That extra exercise reduced the likelihood of premature death in that group by 35%. Study authors also noted that the lower risk of death levels off at about 40 minutes of exercise per day for those with higher sedentary time. Additionally, light-intensity physical activity only reduced the risk of death in highly sedentary people who sat for 12 hours or more per day.
How To Fit More Exercise Into Your Day
Findings from the study encourage at least 20-25 minutes of exercise per day. The key is to be consistent with your daily exercise, not do a chunk of 80 minutes one day and 50 minutes another day. Daily movement is necessary to reduce the risk of early death, especially if you are very sedentary. It is very shocking how much a small amount of exercise per day can affect your long-term health!
If you need daily reminders, consider getting a FitBit or other similar tracking device that logs your steps and health data. Break up your day by taking a 20-minute walk on your lunch break, but walk with purpose! Morning exercise may work better for other people, especially if you work out at home. You don’t need a gym for daily exercise! Just make sure that you engage in moderate- to high-intensity workouts for optimal results.