A recent study has found that even a small amount of daily exercise can significantly reduce the risk of premature death caused by a sedentary lifestyle. The study, which tracked over 11,000 participants aged 50 and above, revealed that just 22 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) per day can have a positive impact on mortality risk. The more exercise one engages in, the greater the reduction in risk, up to a certain point. The study’s findings challenge the commonly recommended exercise guidelines of 150-300 minutes of MVPA per week. The research suggests that any amount of physical activity is better than none, and even small increments of exercise throughout the day can be beneficial.
The study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, analyzed data from several fitness-tracker-based studies conducted in Norway, Sweden, and the United States. Participants reported their daily sedentary time, physical activity levels, and various health-related factors. The researchers aimed to determine the effect of sedentary time and exercise on mortality risk based on death registries. The results showed that individuals who exercised less than 22 minutes per day and sat for more than 12 hours had a 38% higher risk of death compared to those who sat for 8 hours.
Dr. Edvard H. Sagelv, the lead author of the study, emphasized that while sedentary time alone may not be extremely dangerous compared to a complete lack of physical activity, excessive sedentary behavior is still associated with increased health risks and premature death. Dr. Tracy L. Zaslow, a primary care sports medicine physician, explained that sedentary behavior leads to muscle weakness, making it harder for individuals to engage in physical activity. As a result, they become more at risk for falls and injuries, and their heart muscles may weaken. This highlights the importance of staying active throughout life, starting from childhood, to maintain optimal physical and mental health.
Exercise has been shown to offer a range of benefits, including improved mental health, cardiometabolic profiles, and cognitive function. Dr. Melody Ding, another expert in the field, emphasized the importance of physical activity across all age groups. Engaging in regular exercise can lead to an upward spiral of positive health outcomes. It not only reduces the risk of various diseases but also promotes better sleep, which in turn reduces the likelihood of injuries.
The study’s findings challenge the current exercise guidelines set by the World Health Organization (WHO), which recommend 150-300 minutes of MVPA per week. The study suggests that individuals who engage in more than 22 minutes of MVPA per day do not experience an increased risk of death, even with higher levels of sedentary time. However, the risk reduction appears to level off for those who are highly sedentary and engage in 60-120 minutes of exercise per day.
To incorporate exercise into busy schedules, experts suggest “exercise snacking,” which involves breaking up physical activity into shorter bouts throughout the day. This approach can be more manageable and easier to integrate into daily routines. Dr. Ding emphasizes that any amount of MVPA is better than none and encourages individuals to do a little more, even if they cannot meet the recommended targets.
In conclusion, the study highlights the significant impact that even a small amount of exercise can have on reducing mortality risk associated with a sedentary lifestyle. Engaging in at least 22 minutes of MVPA per day can provide substantial health benefits. However, it is important to remember that any amount of physical activity, regardless of duration, is better than remaining sedentary. Exercise should be viewed as a lifelong habit that contributes to overall well-being and plays a crucial role in preventing various diseases and promoting mental health.