New research is looking into how to best protect our health by estimating how much exercise we’d need to counteract a whole day of sitting down.
It’s not hard in today’s world to not move for a whole day. In fact, most of us are expected to do just that for a large chunk of our workdays, sitting productively at our desks. But that’s not the way our bodies were meant to be used, and such long periods of inactivity take a heavy toll on your health and fitness.
So what would be the minimum amount of exercise we should be getting to counteract the effect of sitting down the rest of the day? Well, according to new research from an international team of researchers, around 30-40 minutes should do the trick.
Break a sweat
“In active individuals doing about 30-40 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity, the association between high sedentary time and risk of death is not significantly different from those with low amounts of sedentary time,” the researchers explained in their paper.
The team calculated this amount of time while assuming that an individual would be sitting down around 10 hours per day in total. The figure is meant to give us a baseline of physical activity that will undo the damaging effects of that 10-hour sitting period. With that said, any amount of exercise is better than no exercise, and more is better than less (within reason, of course).
The findings are based on data recorded in nine previous studies which together involved 44,370 participants across four countries. All of the participants wore and were monitored using some form of a fitness tracking device. Data from these studies showed overall that the risk of death among the participants with a more sedentary lifestyle increased the less time they spent engaging in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity.
What this means is that such activities — including cycling, brisk walking, or even gardening — can have a meaningful effect in lowering your chances of an early death. Although current World Health Organization guidelines recommend 150-300 mins of moderate-intensity or 75-150 mins of vigorous-intensity physical activity every week to counteract the effects of a sedentary lifestyle, the current paper finds that 30-40 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per day will reduce your chance of early death to the same levels as those of people who do not live a sedentary lifestyle.
The findings of this meta-analysis are quite reliable, the team explains, as they are based on objective data from wearable fitness trackers, not self-reported data.
“As these guidelines emphasize, all physical activity counts and any amount of it is better than none,” said physical activity and population health researcher Emmanuel Stamatakis from the University of Sydney in Australia. “People can still protect their health and offset the harmful effects of physical inactivity.”
So how can you get your 30-40 minutes of activity in every day? The team recommends little changes which can be seamlessly integrated into our current lifestyles, such as taking the stairs instead of the lift, engaging in play with pets or children, doing house chores, taking walks, cycling, doing yoga, or even dancing around the house. If you can’t manage to get the whole 40 minutes right away, starting small and building over time is still a great approach.
The paper “Joint associations of accelerometer-measured physical activity and sedentary time with all-cause mortality: a harmonised meta-analysis in more than 44 000 middle-aged and older individuals” has been published in the journal British Journal of Sports Medicine.