Just 20 to 25 minutes of daily physical activity can offset the increased risk of death associated with a lifestyle in which much of the day is spent engaging in sedentary activities.
A new study involving experts from the Arctic University of Norway examined how moderate to vigorous physical activity influences the association between time spent sitting and the risk of early death. The results can be read in the “British Journal of Sports Medicine”.
Data from almost 12,000 people analyzed
People often spend many hours a day sitting for activities, which can have a negative impact on life expectancy, the researchers explain.
To find out how time spent sitting affects the risk of premature death, they analyzed data from four cohort studies with a total of almost 12,000 participants aged at least 50 who wore devices to measure their activity.
The researchers also determined how the amount of physical activity and duration of sitting influenced the risk of premature death within an average follow-up period of just over five years.
A lot of time is spent sitting
It found that 6,042 participants spent 10.5 hours or more per day on sedentary activities, while 5,943 participants spent less than 10.5 hours sitting.
A comparison with the death registers showed that a total of 805 participants died over an average period of five years, which corresponded to seven percent of the participants. Of those, 357 people spent less than 10.5 hours on sedentary activities, the team reports.
In contrast, 448 participants who died prematurely spent at least 10.5 hours a day on sitting activities, the researchers continued.
Up to 38 percent increased risk of death
The analysis of the data from the activity measuring device showed that the risk of premature death increased by 38 percent if participants spent more than twelve hours a day on sedentary activities, compared to people who only spent eight hours a day on sedentary activities.
However, this only applied to participants who spent less than 22 minutes per day doing moderate to vigorous physical activity. On the other hand, if the participants engaged in moderate to vigorous activity for more than 22 minutes a day, this was associated with a lower risk of premature death, the experts explain in a press release.
Physical activity protects against premature death
Higher levels of moderate to vigorous physical activity are associated with a lower risk of death, regardless of sitting time, and the association between sedentary behavior and early death is significantly influenced by the amount of moderate to vigorous physical activity.
For example, it was shown that participants who spent less than 10.5 hours a day doing sedentary activities were able to reduce their risk of premature death by 15 percent with just an additional ten minutes of moderate to intensive physical activity, the team reports.
On the other hand, if the participants spent more than 10.5 hours a day doing activities while sitting, ten minutes of additional moderate to intensive physical activity was associated with a reduced risk of premature death of 35 percent, the researchers explain.
Additionally, the team found that light exercise only had a beneficial effect on the risk of death in people who spent more than 12 hours a day engaging in sedentary activities.
Physical activity to reduce mortality risk
Based on the results obtained, the researchers are of the opinion that even small amounts of moderate to intensive physical activity can be an effective strategy for reducing the risk of mortality caused by long periods of sitting.
Performing moderate to vigorous physical activity for at least 22 minutes a day can eliminate the risk of premature death due to time spent sitting.
In addition, higher daily levels of physical activity are associated with a significantly lower risk of premature death, and this risk reduction is independent of how much time affected people spent daily on sedentary activities, the team said.
Integrating a little more physical activity into everyday life can not only benefit general health, but also significantly increase life expectancy. (as)