The opinions shared in the GymNation blog articles are solely those of the respective authors and may not represent the perspectives of GymNation or any member of the GymNation team.
Even a Little Physical Activity Can Offset a Day Spent Sitting
SIGN UP FOR YOUR FREE DAY PASS TODAY!
Extended periods of inactivity increase the likelihood of premature mortality; however, engaging in 20 to 25 minutes of daily exercise can counteract this threat, according to findings from a research team.
"Even if individuals are inactive for the majority of the day for various reasons, incorporating brief durations of exercise can significantly reduce the risk of dying," stated principal investigator Edvard Sagelv of UiT The Arctic University of Norway, located in Tromso.
That can even include light intensity exercise like cleaning.
For the study, Sagelv and his team reviewed data on nearly 12,000 older adults. They found that being sedentary for over 12 hours a day — perhaps either watching TV or sitting at a desk — raised the risk of early death, but only in those getting less than 22 minutes of moderate exercise a day.
"Individuals doing more than 22 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per day, the equivalent of the World Health Organization's 150 minutes per week guidelines, had no increased risk of death with more sedentary time," Sagelv said.
This study, however, can't prove that exercise alone lowered the risk of premature death, only that there appears to be an association.
Nevertheless, the study serves as a confirmation of the essential nature of physical activity for maintaining our health and vitality, according to Dr. David Katz, an expert in preventive and lifestyle medicine and the president of the True Health Initiative. He did not participate in the study.
In much of the developed world, adults spend nine to 10 hours sitting, mostly at their jobs. Many strategies have been tried to reduce sedentary time, especially at work, Sagelv said.
Some workplaces are providing "sit-to-stand workstations to reduce sitting time or having standing areas instead of sitting space," he said.
Providing safe spaces to exercise outside of work is more challenging, Sagelv added, citing a need for safe areas for cycling and walking or having green areas in cities.
"More public money devoted to providing safe spaces for exercise will prevent more disease and eventually premature death," he said.
The investigators collected data on participants in the Norwegian Tromsø Study, the Swedish Healthy Ageing Initiative, the Norwegian National Physical Activity Survey and the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
All participants were at least 50 years old and used fitness tracking devices.
About 6,000 people spent less than 11 hours sitting every day, and 6,000 spent 11 or more hours on their backsides.
🔍 Read More: Ready to elevate your fitness journey? Dive deeper with our BMI Calculator, BMR Calculator, TDEE Calculator, and Body Fat Calculator. Uncover the science behind your health!
Over an average of five years, 7% of the study participants died. An analysis of the activity trackers showed that folks who sat more than 12 hours a day had a 38% higher risk of dying during the study period, compared with those who sat for much of the day but exercised about 22 minutes a day.
However, more than 22 daily minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity was linked with a lower risk of death, Sagelv said.
For example, an extra 10 minutes of daily exercise was associated with a 15% lower risk of death in those who logged fewer than 11 sedentary hours every day, and a 35% lower risk among those who clocked more than 11 sedentary hours, he explained.
Sagelv said that "moderate and vigorous physical activity, the intensity, is not as high as it seems from a population perspective, it is breathing a little bit heavier than at rest."
Examples are brisk walking, walking at a normal pace up a hill, cycling at a normal pace, doing gardening work, or playing with kids, he noted.
Sagelv also said it's never too late to start exercising to reap the benefits. "The more active you are, the longer you avoid loss of muscles and loss of heart fitness," he explained.
"There are studies from the beginning of the 2000s that showed that 70-year-olds doing endurance training their entire life had the same cardiorespiratory fitness level as a sedentary 20-year-old. You can simply train yourself to get younger," Sagelv said.
Physical activity enhances overall health by increasing oxygen supply to the muscles, encompassing vital organs like the heart and lungs,” explained Dr. Christopher Tanayan, the Director of Sports Cardiology at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
If worrisome symptoms develop, such as shortness of breath, you should let your doctor know.
"If there's something wrong with your heart then you are essentially forcing your heart to pump and then if you have a limitation of blood flow to the heart itself, then you will develop symptoms you can present to your doctor and it gets taken care of earlier," Tanayan said.