Sitting for prolonged periods of time has become increasingly common in today’s sedentary lifestyle. Whether it’s due to long hours at the office or binge-watching our favorite TV shows, many of us find ourselves sitting for hours on end. However, a recent study has shed light on the potential health risks associated with prolonged sitting and the importance of incorporating daily exercise into our routines.
Exercising for just 22 minutes a day may help to reduce the risk of premature death in individuals over the age of 50, according to the findings of a new study published on Oct. 24.
The study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, was conducted by researchers from multiple universities, including the Arctic University of Norway and Aarhus University in Denmark.
Researchers aimed to examine whether moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) “modifies the association between sedentary time and mortality and vice versa” and estimate “the joint associations of MVPA and sedentary time on mortality risk.”
For their study, the researchers looked at data from approximately 11,989 participants from four prospective cohort studies from Norway, Sweden, and the United States.
The participants were all over the age of 50 and had their MVPA measured via a wearable device that was attached to their hips for 10 hours a day for at least four days.
They also provided details of potentially influential factors such as their weight, height, smoking history, alcohol intake, and whether they had current and/or previous cardiovascular disease, cancer, and/or diabetes.
According to the researchers, 5,943 of the participants spent less than 10.5 hours sitting every day while 6,042 spent 10.5 or more hours being sedentary.
Over a five-year follow-up, 6.7 percent (805) of the participants died, 357 (6 percent) of whom spent under 10.5 hours sitting down every day, and 448 of whom spent 10.5 hours or more sedentary.
Researchers concluded that being sedentary more than 12 hours per day was associated with 38 percent higher mortality risk, but only among individuals accumulating less than 22 min per day of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity.
However, that increased risk rate declined even with just 10 minutes of exercise a day, researchers found.
For example, an extra 10 minutes a day was linked to a 15 percent lower risk of death in those spending less than 10.5 hours sedentary, and a 35 percent lower risk was linked to those spending more than 10.5 sedentary hours, every day.
“Small amounts of MVPA may be an effective strategy to ameliorate the mortality risk from high sedentary time, where accumulating more than 22 min of MVPA eliminates the risk of high sedentary time,” they added.
More than 22 daily minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity were associated with a lower risk of death.
Billions in Health Costs Due to Inactivity
Still, researchers noted the study was observational only, meaning it couldn’t establish cause and effect.
Additionally, the researchers acknowledged that the activity trackers worn by the participants may not have accurately classified all activity types and their corresponding intensity, such as cycling, resistance exercises, and gardening.
Moderate activity is defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as activities that raise your heart rate and cause you to break out in a sweat, such as brisk walking, water aerobics, riding a bike on level ground or with few hills, or mowing the lawn.
The CDC recommends adults get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity and 2 days of muscle-strengthening activity every week.
However, half of U.S. adults spend more than 9.5 hours of their day sitting, including more than 80 percent of their leisure time, according to experts.
According to the CDC, approximately $117 billion in annual health costs are related to low physical activity, which can lead to increased risk of health complications such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer, among others.
The latest study results echo those found in a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in February.
Researchers in that study found as little as 11 minutes of exercise per day was linked to a lower risk of a range of chronic diseases including cancer, cardiovascular disease, and premature death.