We know that spending a lot of time sitting isn’t good for us, but how much exercise is needed to counter the negative health effects of sitting all day?
Research suggests that about 30-40 minutes a day of sweating should be enough.
Up to 40 minutes of “moderate-to-vigorous-intensity physical activity” each day is about the right amount to balance 10 hours of stillness, research shows – although any amount of exercise or even just standing helps to some extent.
This is based on a meta-analysis study published in 2020 analyzing nine previous studies, involving a total of 44,370 people in four different countries who wore some form of fitness tracker.
The analysis found that the risk of death in people with a more sedentary lifestyle increased as the time spent in moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity decreased.
“Among active individuals engaging in approximately 30 to 40 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity, the association between high sedentary time and risk of death is not significantly different from that of individuals with low sedentary time. of a sedentary lifestyle”, explain the researchers in their article.
In other words, engaging in reasonably strenuous activities — bicycling, brisk walking, gardening — can lower your risk of early death down to what it would be if you weren’t doing all of this sitting down, as this link may be seen in the amassed data of many thousands of people.
While meta-analyses like this always require elaborate points between separate studies with different volunteers, time scales and conditions, the advantage of this particular research is that it relies on relatively objective data from wearable devices – not on self-reported data. by the participants.
At the time, the study was published alongside the release of the World Health Organization’s 2020 Global Guidelines on Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour, developed by 40 scientists on six continents. The British Journal of Sports Medicine (BHSM) has also published a special edition to carry out both the study and the revised guidelines.
“As these guidelines emphasize, all physical activity matters and any amount is better than none,” said Emmanuel Stamatakis, a physical activity and population health researcher from the University of Sydney in Australia..
“People can still protect their health and offset the harmful effects of physical inactivity.”
Fitness tracker-based research is broadly in line with the 2020 WHO guidelines, which recommend 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75-150 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity each week to counter sedentary behaviors.
Climbing the stairs instead of taking the elevator, playing with children and pets, doing yoga or dancing, doing household chores, walking and cycling are all suggested ways people can be more active – and if you can’t manage the 30-40 minutes right away, researchers say, start small.
Making recommendations for all ages and body types is tricky, though the 40-minute time frame for activity aligns with previous research. As more data comes out, we should learn more about how to stay healthy even if we have to spend long periods of time at a desk.
“While the new guidelines reflect the best available science, there are still gaps in our knowledge,” Stamatakis said.
“We still don’t know, for example, exactly where the bar is for ‘sitting too much’. But this is a rapidly evolving area of research, and we hope to have answers in a few years.”
The research was published here, and the 2020 guidelines are available here, in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
An earlier version of this article was first published in November 2020.
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