Prolonged periods of sedentary time can increase your risk of early death, but exceeding the minimum recommended physical activity levels of 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise a week can help counter those risks, says the World Health Organization (WHO) in its new global activity guidelines.
People who did just 30 to 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity had a substantially lower risk of early death—similar to those who had very low amounts of sedentary time, according to the study.
Even very short bouts of activity—less than 10 minutes—accumulated throughout the day provide protection.
You know sitting all day is bad for your health. Experts even use a term—sitting disease—for the increased health woes and risk of early death associated with lots of chair time. So what’s a desk-bound worker to do?
Be sure to exercise 30 to 40 minutes a day, that’s what.
The health harms and risk of early death associated with prolonged sitting can be offset by exceeding the minimum recommended physical activity levels for a person—150 minutes of moderate exercise, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise—says the World Health Organization (WHO) in its new global guidelines on physical activity and sedentary behavior published in a special dedicated issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
These findings come from a research review, which includes nine studies. More than 44,000 men and women wore activity trackers and were followed for about 10 years. Unsurprisingly, the research reported that adults who clocked 10 or more hours of sedentary time a day had a significantly higher risk of early death. But that risk was particularly pronounced among people who were generally physically inactive.
People who completed 30 to 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity had a substantially lower risk of early death—similar to those who had very low amounts of sedentary time, according to the study.
For reference, moderate activity is anything that gets your heart rate up, but also allows you to still carry on a conversation. Vigorous activity ramps your heart rate up so you’re breathing heavily—enough that you can still talk, but just in short sentences.
Researchers say these findings reinforce the recommendations set out in the 2020 World Health Organization Global Guidelines on Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour.
The other important takeaway from this research: All movement counts, even five-minute bouts of activity accumulated throughout the day. Previously, the guidelines specified that physical activity needed to be sustained for at least 10 minutes to be beneficial. That has been changed—the body of research shows that physical activity of any duration improves all health outcomes and reduces risk of early death.
“These guidelines are very timely, given that we are in the middle of a global pandemic, which has confined people indoors for long periods and encouraged an increase in sedentary behavior,” said special issue co-editor Professor Emmanuel Stamatakis, of the University of Sydney, in a press release.
“But people can still protect their health and offset the harmful effects of physical inactivity. As these guidelines emphasize, all physical activity counts and any amount of it is better than none.”
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