In a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers found that engaging in just 20-25 minutes of daily physical activity may help counteract the increased risk of death associated with a sedentary lifestyle. This is particularly relevant in developed nations where adults spend an average of 9 to 10 hours sitting each day, primarily during working hours. A highly sedentary lifestyle has been linked to a higher risk of mortality.

The study aimed to provide more precise insights by pooling individual participant data from four different groups of individuals who wore activity trackers. Data was collected between 2003 and 2019 from sources such as the Norwegian Tromso Study, the Swedish Healthy Ageing Initiative, the Norwegian National Physical Activity Survey, and the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, totaling nearly 12,000 people aged 50 or older. These participants had at least four days of 10 daily hours of activity tracker records, were monitored for a minimum of two years, and provided information on various potential influencing factors, including sex, education level, weight, height, smoking history, alcohol intake, and existing or previous cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes.

Among the participants, 5943 individuals spent less than 10.5 hours sitting each day, while 6042 individuals accumulated 10.5 or more sedentary hours. Over an average five-year period, 805 (7%) participants passed away, with 357 (6%) of them belonging to the group spending less than 10.5 hours sitting daily, and 448 in the group exceeding 10.5 hours. The analysis revealed that being sedentary for more than 12 hours daily was associated with a 38% higher risk of death compared to those with 8 hours of sedentary time. However, this increased risk was observed primarily among those engaging in less than 22 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day. More than 22 minutes of such physical activity was linked to a reduced risk of death.

Importantly, the study demonstrated that while higher levels of physical activity correlated with a lower risk of death, the relationship between sedentary time and mortality risk was significantly influenced by the amount of moderate to vigorous physical activity. For instance, an additional 10 minutes of daily physical activity was associated with a 15% lower risk of death among those with fewer than 10.5 sedentary hours and a 35% lower risk among those with more than 10.5 sedentary hours each day. Light-intensity physical activity was found to reduce the risk of death primarily in individuals who were highly sedentary, with 12 or more daily hours of sitting.

It’s important to note that this study is observational and cannot establish causation. Factors like diet, mobility issues, and overall health were not fully accounted for, and the accuracy of activity trackers in classifying all types and intensities of physical activity, such as cycling or resistance exercises, remains a limitation. Nevertheless, these findings emphasize the potential benefits of even a small amount of daily physical activity in mitigating the risks of a sedentary lifestyle, especially when combined with longer, more vigorous physical activity.


The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as a health advice. We would ask you to consult a qualified professional or medical expert to gain additional knowledge before you choose to consume any product or perform any exercise.

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