One hour of daily activity could offset risks of desk-job lifestyle: study
Published Thursday, July 28, 2016 2:30AM EDT
Sitting all day can have serious health consequences and possibly even lead to an early death, unless it’s offset by one hour of physical activity, according to a new study.
The large-scale study of more than one million people found that being active for one hour each day -- such as a brisk morning walk or an after-work bike ride -- may eliminate the increased risk of death associated with sitting for eight hours each day.
The study, published Thursday in the British medical journal The Lancet, analyzed data from 16 previous studies to pinpoint exactly how many hours of physical activity it would take to eliminate the harmful effects of sitting for extended periods of time.
Earlier studies have found that sitting for several hours a day can lead to heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and other chronic health problems.
The one million participants were aged 45 and older and lived in the U.S., Western Europe and Australia. Researchers separated them into four groups based on physical activity levels, from less than five minutes of activity per day to 60 to 75 minutes per day.
According to the findings, those who sat for eight hours each day but were physically active had a "much lower" risk of early death compared to those who sat for few hours each day but were not physically active. Researchers also found that the greatest health risk was for participants who sat for long periods of time and were inactive.
The study’s lead author says that this one-hour sweet spot could be enough to stay healthy "even without having to take up sports or go to the gym."
"For many people who commute to work and have office-based jobs, there is no way to escape sitting for prolonged periods of time," wrote professor Ulf Ekelund of the Norwegian School of Sports Sciences and the University of Cambridge in a statement.
"For these people in particular, we cannot stress enough the importance of getting exercise, whether it’s getting out for a walk at lunchtime, going for a run in the morning or cycling to work. An hour of physical activity per day is the ideal, but if this is unmanageable, then at least doing some exercise each day can help reduce the risk."
Some might consider the study’s recommendation of 60 minutes per day ambitious. The World Health Organization recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week.
Researchers also found that watching TV for long periods of time was slightly worse for one’s health than simply sitting. Participants who watched many hours of TV per day had a slightly higher risk of death than those who sat for the same amount of time, researchers found.
The study’s authors said watching TV "may be a marker of a more unhealthy lifestyle in general" and suggested that snacking could also play a role.
Researchers pointed out that the study may not apply to all global populations because it only analysed data from a few countries in the Western world and specifically looked at participants 45 and older.