A study has suggested that a 22-minute brisk walk, jog, or cycle every day is enough to counterbalance the negative health effects of prolonged sitting. Research has shown that individuals who sit for long periods, such as those with office jobs or those who watch a lot of television, are more likely to have a shorter lifespan. However, engaging in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) can eliminate this risk.
The study supports the recommendation of the UK chief medical officers, who advise individuals to aim for 150 minutes of MVPA per week, which equates to approximately 21 minutes per day. Examples of moderate activity include brisk walking (at a speed of 4mph or faster), heavy cleaning tasks like washing windows or mopping, cycling at a speed of 10-12mph, or playing badminton. Vigorous activities include hiking, jogging at 6mph or faster, shoveling, fast cycling, football, basketball, or tennis.
The guidelines in the UK state, “For good physical and mental health, adults should aim to be physically active every day. Any activity is better than none, and more is better still.”
In the new study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers analyzed data from 11,989 individuals over the age of 50 from Norway, Sweden, and the US. The participants in the study wore activity trackers, which measured their MVPA.
Out of the participants, 5,943 spent fewer than 10.5 hours sitting down each day, while 6,042 spent 10.5 hours or more being sedentary. Over the course of a five-year follow-up, 6.7% (805 individuals) died.
The research revealed that engaging in MVPA for 22 minutes each day can offset the negative effects of prolonged sitting and eliminate the risk of early death associated with it. Edvard Sagelv, one of the study’s authors from the Arctic University of Norway, stated, “In our study, we found that only those people who sit for more than 12 hours per day had a higher risk of death. We are talking about any sitting behavior, such as being in the office or watching TV for long periods of time. In our study, every additional minute of MVPA showed a lower risk of death, meaning that even if individuals engaged in less than 22 minutes (such as 10 minutes), there was still a lower risk of death. However, engaging in 22 minutes of MVPA eliminated the higher risk of death caused by sedentary time. This means that if individuals engage in 22 minutes or more per day, there is no excess risk from sedentary time. Furthermore, if individuals engage in more than 22 minutes per day, there is a lower overall risk of death. Basically, the more physical activity, the better.”
The overall research team concluded, “Efforts to promote physical activity may have substantial health benefits for individuals, and small amounts of MVPA may be an effective strategy to mitigate the mortality risk associated with prolonged sitting.”
Regina Giblin, a senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said, “This research supports previous findings that show the negative effects of prolonged sitting and the positive impact of exercise. Taking regular breaks from your computer screen, going for walks, or cooking healthy meals from scratch are ways to incorporate physical activity into your day. Being active can help you manage your weight, reduce blood pressure, and improve your mental health.”