Most of us live sedentary lifestyles where we’re spending long portions of the day — between eight and 10 hours — sitting down. This can have detrimental effects on our health, and has even been linked with an overall increased risk of death from any cause. But recently, a team of researchers set out to figure out exactly how much activity you need to do to offset a day of being sedentary, and it’s not as much as you might think.
How Moderate to Intense Physical Activity Offsets Sitting
According to the 2021 review published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, offsetting the effects of a sedentary lifestyle could be as easy as doing 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day.
This meta-analysis included physical activity and lifestyle data of 44,370 individuals across four different countries. Exercise and activity information was gathered using fitness trackers. According to the results — and perhaps unsurprisingly — the people who exercised the least and spent the most time being sedentary had a higher risk of death from any cause.
The more interesting finding, however, was that for those who were mostly sedentary (defined as sitting eight to 10 hours per day) but moderately active for 30 to 40 minutes per day, the risk of death was not higher when compared with people who weren’t considered sedentary — so it may be worth taking a brisk walk during your lunch break!
“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 Emmanuel Stamatakis, one of the authors on the study. “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.”
These results are pretty in line with the most recent advice from The World Health Organization 2020 guidelines, which suggests that adults get at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 to 150 mins of vigorous-intensity physical activity per week to counter a sedentary lifestyle.
So, while we can’t do much if our obligations require that we are mostly sedentary, research like this tells us that there is still a degree of control we have over our overall health. Always check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program, and once you get the OK, incorporate some walking, swimming, cycling, or other exercise into your daily routine!