Brief Daily Exercise Can Lower Your Risk of Death From Too Much Sitting

December 14, 2023 by No Comments

Sitting all day is not only dangerous but can also be deadly.

Sedentary behavior has been linked to a number of poor health outcomes, including heart disease, type II diabetes, cancer, and early death.

A new study published this week found that short bouts of exercise (20 to 25 minutes per day) can have a significant impact on the mortality risk for people who spend long periods sitting.

The effect of regular physical exercise on the body is astounding. You could say that exercising is both prevention and medication, just like brushing teeth to avoid cavities,” said Edvard Sagelv, Ph.D., a researcher at the UiT, the Arctic University of Norway in Tromso, and the author of the study.

A little exercise can go a long way.

The analysis presented in the British Journal of Sports Medicine on Tuesday was based on four large datasets collected from Norway, Sweden, and the United States. These datasets recorded health data on more than 12,000 adults aged 50 or older between 2003 and 2019. The participants wore an activity tracker for a minimum of four days and at least 10 hours a day. They were also monitored for two years.

Around half of the study subjects sat down for less than 10.5 hours a day. The rest spent 10.5 or more hours sedentary. Based on their previous research, Dr. Sagelv’s colleagues estimate that Western adults spend 9-10 hours per day sitting down, mostly in the workplace.

Scientists found that a link between health data and death registries revealed about 7 percent of participants had died over a five-year average follow-up. The authors found that among this group, participants who sat more than 12 hours a day had a 38 percent greater likelihood of dying than those who were sedentary on average for eight hours per day. But only those who sat that long and did less than 22 minutes of moderate or vigorous physical activity daily were at higher risk.

In other words, moderate to vigorous physical exercise was associated with a reduced risk of mortality regardless of how much time you spend sedentary.

If you have type 2 diabetes, it is important to lift weights.

The more activity, the lower the risk.

A 10-minute extra exercise per day, for instance, is associated with a 15% lower risk of dying in people who spend less than 10.5 hours sitting. The 10 minutes extra of exercise had a greater impact on those who spent more than 10.5 hours per day sitting.

Sagelv stated that the death risk for people who spend a lot of time sedentary generally levels off after 40 minutes per day. He said that any amount of exercise is beneficial, and the more you do, the less risk there is.

Only those people who spent 12 hours or more sitting each day were associated with a reduced risk of dying from light-intensity exercise.


How to get at least the minimum amount of physical activity

The findings suggest that people should exercise for at least 20-25 minutes a day. This is an average. Sagelv says that 150 minutes of exercise per week can be divided into several periods. For example, 50 minutes every three days, so long as the average is 20 to 25 minutes.

Sagelv says that the key to success is a continuous commitment. The challenge is finding the time to exercise and making an effort, something that people may not enjoy. “It is more comfortable to lay on the couch.”

Jay Dawes, Ph.D., is an associate professor at Oklahoma State University, Stillwater. He believes that the results of his study may serve as a motivator.

He says that a small amount of exercise can make a significant difference in your mortality risk.

Dr. Dawes, who was not involved with the study, adds that a device that tracks activity, such as the one worn by those in this study, can also inspire people to keep up an exercise program.

He says that if you have an easy-to-use device to track your progress over time and measure it, this can be very motivating.

He also suggests blocking time in the calendar for exercise and making it a priority. Dawes says that morning workouts are best for some people because they boost the metabolism, which can increase productivity and alertness throughout the day. Some research suggests that morning exercise can lead to better weight loss results.

He says that some people aren’t morning people. You need to find the time and activity that works for you.

Sagelv suggests that there are many ways of getting moderate to vigorous activity, such as brisk walking or walking uphill at a normal pace. You can also garden, play with children, or cycle at a normal pace.

He says that if you are super busy, take the stairs. Or get off the bus one stop prior to your destination. Then, walk the last mile.

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