How much exercise you need to offset a day of sitting
We all know that sitting down for long periods of time is bad for our health. But how much exercise is actually required to offset this harm?
According to research, working up a sweat for 30 to 40 minutes each day should be plenty.
Up to 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity per day is roughly the ideal amount to counterbalance 10 hours of inactivity. However, any quantity of exercise, or even simply standing up, is beneficial to some level.
That is based on a meta-analysis from 2020 that examined nine earlier studies and had 44,370 individuals using fitness trackers in four different nations.
The investigation revealed that as time spent engaged in moderate-to-vigorous physical exercise decreased, the risk of death increased among those who had a more sedentary lifestyle.
Engaging in moderately demanding activities like cycling, brisk walking, or gardening reduces your risk of mortality. It elevates your mood. You feel better, you look better, you live longer.
The advantage of this particular piece of research is that it relied on relatively objective data from wearables—not data self-reported by the participants—whereas meta-analyses like this one always require some elaborate dot-joining across different studies with different volunteers, timescales, and conditions.
The study was released at the same time as the 2020 Global Guidelines on Physical Activity and Sedentary Behavior, which were developed by 40 scientists from six continents. A special edition of the British Journal of Sports Medicine (BHSM) was published that included both the study and the updated recommendations.
According to Australian researcher Emmanuel Stamatakis, who studies physical activity and population health, “as these guidelines underscore, all physical activity counts and any amount are better than none. People can still safeguard their health and counteract the negative impacts of inactivity.”
The 2020 World Health Organization guidelines, which include 150–300 minutes per week of moderate-intensity or 75–150 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity physical activity to combat sedentary behavior, corroborate the findings of the fitness-tracker research.
Walking up the stairs; playing with the keiki and pets; practicing yoga or dancing; doing household chores; jogging and cycling—they’re all simple ways to become more active. Or, grab your board of choice and get out on the water.
If you find it difficult to commit to 30 to 40 minutes of activity at once, researchers advise starting small.
It might be challenging to make recommendations that apply to people of various ages and body types, but the 40-minute threshold for movement, at whatever level you can handle, is sound advice.
We should learn more about how to maintain our health—and reap the rewards—even if we’re tied to a desk for much of the day.