It might be challenging to formulate recommendations that apply to people of various ages and body types, but one advice remains constant across all studies. Scientists have now revealed just how much exercise you need to ‘offset’ a day of sitting.
We all recognize that sitting down for long periods of time is bad for our health, but how much exercise is actually required to offset this harm?
According to research, working up a sweat for 30 to 40 minutes each day should be plenty.
According to study, up to 40 minutes of “moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity” per day is roughly the ideal amount to counterbalance 10 hours of inactivity. However, any quantity of exercise, or even simply standing up, is beneficial to some level.
That is predicated on a meta-analysis study that was published in 2020 after examining nine prior studies including a total of 44,370 individuals in four different nations who were sporting some sort of fitness tracker.
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The investigation revealed that as time spent engaged in moderate-to-vigorous physical exercise decreased, the risk of death increased among those who had a more sedentary lifestyle.
“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 (read below).
In other words, engaging in moderately demanding activities like cycling, brisk walking, or gardening can reduce your chance of dying sooner to the level it would be if you were not spending so much time sitting about. In fact, thousands of people’s data have been gathered to show this connection.
The advantage of this particular study is that it tended to rely on fairly objective data from wearables rather than data that participants self-reported, even though meta-analyses like this one always require some intricate dot-joining across various studies with different volunteers, timeframes, and conditions.
The World Health Organization 2020 Global Guidelines on Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour, which were developed by 40 scientists from six continents, was released at the same time as the study. The study and the updated guidelines were both included in a special edition of the British Journal of Sports Medicine (BHSM).
According to Australian researcher Emmanuel Stamatakis, who studies physical activity and population health, “As these guidelines emphasize, all physical activity counts and any amount of it is better than none.”
“People can still protect their health and offset the harmful effects of physical inactivity.”
The 2020 WHO guidelines, which include 150–300 minutes per week of moderate intensity or 75–150 minutes per week of vigorous intensity physical activity to combat sedentary behavior, broadly corroborate the findings of the fitness tracker research.
Walking up the stairs rather than using the elevator, playing with kids and pets, practicing yoga or dancing, doing household chores, walking, and cycling are all suggested as ways for people to become more active. If you find it difficult to commit to 30 to 40 minutes of activity at once, the researchers advise starting small.
It might be challenging to formulate recommendations that apply to people of various ages and body types, but the 40-minute advice for activity is consistent with other studies. We should learn more about how to maintain our health even if we must sit at a desk for extended periods of time when more data is available.
“Although the new guidelines reflect the best available science, there are still some gaps in our knowledge,” said Stamatakis.
“We are still not clear, for example, where exactly the bar for ‘too much sitting’ is. But this is a fast-paced field of research, and we will hopefully have answers in a few years’ time.”
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