Walking this many minutes a day can undo the harmful effects of sitting, study finds
Sitting for extended periods has long been associated with detrimental health effects, from impeding blood circulation to elevating the risk of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. Previous studies have indicated that while regular physical activity can alleviate some of the negative consequences of prolonged sitting, it may not fully undo the damage.
However, a recent study has shed light on an intriguing revelation: brief episodes of exercise might have more profound health benefits than previously presumed, even if you spend most of your day seated. This approach, characterized by short bursts of physical activity throughout the day, is often referred to as “exercise snacking.”
Published on October 24 in The British Journal of Sports Medicine, this groundbreaking research reveals that adhering to the current recommendation of engaging in 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each week can effectively counteract the harm caused by extended periods of sitting. Lead author of the study, Edvard Sagelv, a researcher at The Arctic University of Norway, explained to NBC News via email, “This is the fascinating part: We’re talking about activities that make you breathe a bit heavier, such as brisk walking, gardening, or climbing a hill. Just 20 minutes a day will suffice; for instance, a short 10-minute stroll twice a day—like getting off the bus one stop before your destination on your way to work and doing the same on your way back home.”
The study involved nearly 12,000 individuals aged 50 and above, who wore movement-detection devices for ten hours a day over four days and were tracked for a minimum of two years. The findings indicated that sitting for over 12 hours a day, compared to eight hours, increased the risk of death by 38%. However, this risk only applied to those who engaged in less than 22 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity daily. Moreover, the research revealed that as individuals engaged in more physical activity, the risk of death decreased.
What about lower-intensity activities? These appeared to benefit those who spent 12 or more hours seated each day.
Prior research also underscores the advantages of “exercise snacking.” Another study published in The British Journal of Sports Medicine suggests that dedicating 30 to 40 minutes daily to moderate-to-vigorous activities can effectively counteract the adverse effects of prolonged sitting. Even more promising, this exercise can be broken into short, intermittent bursts.
Lead author of the study, Ulf Ekelund, a professor in the Department of Sport Medicine at the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences in Oslo, emphasizes, “Physical activity of at least moderate intensity, equivalent to the current recommendations from the World Health Organization (150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week for adults), seems to mitigate the risk of death associated with prolonged sedentary time. It’s possible to break down this activity into one-minute segments. We’ve assessed accumulated minutes in light, moderate, and vigorous intensity, signifying that ‘every single minute counts.’ The newly released WHO guidelines suggest that physical activity can be accumulated in short bouts, such as taking the stairs, throughout the day.”
The study meticulously examined how different levels of exercise and sitting time interacted with each other. The researchers tallied all active and sedentary minutes throughout the day, demonstrating that it’s possible to reverse the adverse effects of sitting.
Ekelund further notes, “We observed that those who were most active did not have a statistically increased risk of death, irrespective of the amount of time spent sitting, compared to the group with the highest MVPA (moderate-to-vigorous physical activity) and the least sedentary time. Those in the middle group (11 minutes per day) faced no increased risk of death if they spent the least amount of time sedentary (approximately 8.5 hours per day).”
It’s important to keep in mind that sitting time encompasses not only office hours but also the remainder of the day.
Matthew Darnell, a sports medicine expert, finds the concept of short bursts of activity accumulating to meet recommended levels intriguing. He remarks, “I really like that term (exercise snacks). It could be as simple as taking a short walk around the block twice a day. Over time, these little exercise snacks add up.”
However, experts stress that these studies should not be misconstrued to mean that you can sit all day, only punctuating it with a 22-minute walk, without experiencing any adverse health effects. It’s advisable to consult with your doctor or a fitness professional to determine the appropriate level of physical activity based on your daily routine
#Health #ExerciseSnacking #SittingSolution #PhysicalActivity #WellnessJourney”