Scientists reveal how much exercise you need to ‘make up’ for a day of sitting

We know that spending a lot of time sitting is not good for us, but how much exercise does it take to counteract the negative health effects of sitting all day?

Research suggests that around 30-40 minutes per day of sweating should suffice.

According to research, up to 40 minutes of “moderate-to-vigorous-intensity physical activity” every day is just the right amount to balance 10 hours of sitting, though any amount of exercise or even standing helps up to a point.

That’s based on a meta-analysis study published in 2020 that looked at nine previous studies, involving a total of 44,370 people in four different countries who were using some form of fitness tracker.

The analysis found that the risk of death among those with a more sedentary lifestyle increased as time spent in moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity decreased.

“In active individuals who engage in 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 those with low sedentary time,” the researchers explained in their paper. Article.

In other words, doing a few reasonably strenuous activities (cycling, brisk walks, gardening) can reduce your risk of an early death to what it would be if you weren’t doing all of that sitting down, to the extent that this link can be seen in the results. accumulated data from many thousands of people.

While meta-analyses such as this always require an elaborate joining of the points across separate studies with different volunteers, time scales, and conditions, the benefit of this particular investigation is that it was based on relatively objective data from wearable devices, not self-reported data. by the participants.

At the time, the study was published in conjunction with the launch of the World Health Organization’s 2020 Global Guidelines on Physical Activity and Sedentary Behavior, produced by 40 scientists on six continents. the british journal of sports medicine (BHSM) also published a special edition to carry both the study and the revised guidelines.

“As these guidelines emphasize, all physical activity counts and any amount is better than none,” said Emmanuel Stamatakis, a physical activity and population health researcher at the University of Sydney in Australia..

“People can still protect their health and offset the harmful effects of physical inactivity.”

Research based on fitness trackers 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 counteract sedentary behavior.

Taking the stairs instead of the elevator, playing with children and pets, participating in yoga or dancing, doing housework, walking, and bicycling are all listed as ways people can be more active, and if you can. Don’t manage the 30-40 minutes right away, the researchers say, start small.

Making recommendations for all ages and body types is tricky, though the 40-minute active time frame fits with previous research. As more data is released, we should learn more about how to stay healthy even if we have to spend long periods of time at a desk.

“Although the new guidelines reflect the best available science, there are still some gaps in our knowledge,” Stamatakis said.

“We’re still not clear, for example, where exactly the bar for ‘excessive sitting’ is. But this is a fast-paced field of research and we hope to have answers within a few years.”

The research was published here, and the 2020 guidelines are available here at the british journal of sports medicine.

A previous version of this article was first published in November 2020.

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