What 30 minutes of daily activity does for those who sit a lot

Couch potato
© James Steidl

Replacing sitting time with physical activity is associated with a significantly lower risk of death.

According to the latest US Department of Health and Human Services report, Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, most of us are not moving around enough. The authors write that "approximately 80% of US adults and adolescents are insufficiently active," and not surprisingly, getting the recommended amount of exercise can have profound effects on one's health. (See more here: 11 minutes of daily exercise does this to your body.)

Now a new study from the American Cancer Society adds to the heap of previous research looking at the benefits of being active. And they found something interesting:

For those who get the least amount of physical activity, replacing a half hour of sitting time with physical activity was associated with up to a nearly 50 percent reduction in mortality.

I mean, it may seem obvious that replacing some sitting time with some active time would be beneficial, but lowering one's risk of death by almost half for just 30 minutes of activity seems pretty remarkable.

They found that moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity is associated with a lower risk of:

• Cardiovascular disease
• Certain cancers
• Premature death

Furthermore, the more time spent sedentary, the higher the risk of death and disease. The authors came to their conclusions after analyzing the sitting time, light physical activity, and moderate/vigorous physical activity of 92,541 participants in the ACS's Cancer Prevention Study II Nutrition Cohort.

Looking at data from a span of 14 years, they found that for those who were the least active – a baseline of 17 minutes a day of moderate to vigorous physical activity – swapping 30 minutes a day of sitting with light physical activity was associated with a 14 percent reduced risk of death. Replacing sitting with moderate to vigorous physical activity was associated with a 45 percent reduced risk of death.

For those who were already moderately active, replacing a half hour of sitting time with light physical activity was associated with a 6 percent reduction in mortality; replacing 30 minutes of sitting time with moderate to vigorous physical activity was associated with a 17 percent mortality reduction.

For the most active – those doing 38 minutes a day of moderate to vigorous physical activity – swapping sedentary time for more activity didn't seem to make much a of a difference in terms of reduced mortality risk.

While the authors explain that the study did have limitations, it nonetheless suggests that which is becoming impossible to ignore: Keeping active is good for your health.

As the authors conclude, "These findings suggest that the replacement of modest amounts of sitting time with even light physical activity may have the potential to reduce the risk of premature death among less active adults."

The study, Mortality Risk Reductions for Replacing Sedentary Time With Physical Activities, was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

What 30 minutes of daily activity does for those who sit a lot
Replacing sitting time with physical activity is associated with a significantly lower risk of death.

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