Research has suggested that a 22-minute exercise — including a brisk walk, jog, or cycle — daily is enough to offset the negative health effects of too much sitting down.
Sitting for prolonged periods of time — due to the nature of some office jobs or just watching TV, among others — has become a major concern for most people; with those involved more likely to die earlier.
However, a study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, has shown that moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) can help you counter the effects of prolonged sitting.
Moderate activities include very brisk walking (4mph or faster), heavy cleaning, badminton, or cycling at 10-12mph while vigorous activities include hiking, jogging at 6mph or faster, fast cycling, football, basketball, or tennis.
The researchers discovered that as an individual’s activity level increases, the risk of dying prematurely from any disease decreases.
The study analysed 11,989 people — with a 50/50 split male and female — who wore movement detection devices on their hips for 10 hours a day for at least four days.
Altogether, 5,943 participants spent less than 10.5 hours sitting down every day while 6,042 spent 10.5 or more hours being sedentary.
The study found that over an average of five years, 805 (6.7%) of the participants had died. Also, of the people who died, 353 had spent less than 10 and half hours seated, while 448 averaged 10 and half hours or more.
The experts discovered that participants who sat for more than 12 hours a day are at 38 percent increased risk of death as compared to those who sat for 8 hours.
Edvard Sagelv, an author from the Arctic University of Norway, emphasised the significance of physical activities.
“In our study, we found that only those people doing more than 12 hours per day sitting had a higher risk of death. We are talking about any sitting behaviour – such as being in the office or watching TV for long periods of time,” Sagelv said.
“In our study, every minute higher MVPA showed a lower risk of death, meaning if people were doing less than 22 minutes (such as 10 minutes) there was still a lower risk of death. However, doing 22 minutes eliminated the higher risk of death from sedentary time.
“This means that if doing 22 minutes or more per day, there was no excess risk from sedentary time. And, if doing more than 22 minutes per day, there was a lower risk of death overall. Basically, the more the better.”
On her part, Regina Giblin, a senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: “This research supports previous findings that show the negative effects of long periods sitting down and the positive impact of exercise.
“There are some simple tips that can help to spend less time sitting down. Walking away from your computer screen at regular intervals, going for a walk or cooking a healthy meal from scratch are ways to incorporate active time into your day.”
She added that being active can help you control your weight, reduce your blood pressure and improve your mental health.
The researchers also concluded that “Efforts to promote physical activity may have substantial health benefits for individuals and small amounts of MVPA may be an effective strategy to ameliorate mortality risk associated with high sedentary time”.
The new study appears to contradict findings from earlier research showing that regular exercise did not zero out the negative effects associated with extended periods of sitting.
A 2017 study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, found that working out regularly reduced some of the harms associated with hours of sitting, but did not completely eliminate them.
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