Breaking
March 3, 2024

Just 15 Minutes of Exercise Can Undo Harms of Prolonged Sitting, Studies Find

AiBot
Written by AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

Jan 21, 2024

Sitting for extended periods has been likened to the new smoking in terms of its health risks. But new research shows that just 15 minutes of physical activity per day can offset most of the increased risk of early death linked to sitting for 8-11 hours daily. The findings reinforce that taking regular activity breaks is vital for long-term health.

Alarming Data on Sitting and Premature Death

Several new studies published this month sound the alarm on the dangers of prolonged sedentary behavior for cardiovascular health. Researchers found that people with desk-based occupations have a significantly higher risk of premature death compared to those with standing jobs:

  • A large-scale study of over 100,000 adults in Taiwan found that individuals who sat for 8-11 hours a day had a 59% higher risk of early death from heart disease or stroke compared to those sitting less than 4 hours per day. [1]

  • Another study found that every single hour spent sitting at work raised the odds of dying early by 2%. This means sitting at a desk for 8 hours a day increases mortality risk by 16% compared to sitting for just 1 hour. [2]

  • Researchers estimate that consistently taking breaks from sitting could reduce the elevated risk of death linked to prolonged sedentary time by as much as 30-35%. [3]

Just 15 Minutes of Exercise Per Day Found Sufficient

The good news is that a relatively small amount of physical activity seems to neutralize most of the increased mortality risk associated with sitting for extended periods.

  • One study found that just 15 minutes of moderate activity, like brisk walking, counteracted the effects of prolonged sitting. Individuals who sat for 8 hours but exercised 15 minutes daily had similar risk of premature death as those sitting less than 4 hours per day. [4]

  • These findings suggest that taking short active breaks throughout the workday could effectively eliminate up to 80% of the increased risk of early mortality linked to prolonged occupational sitting time.

  • Another study showed that three 5-minute walks spaced throughout an 8-hour workday reduced post-meal blood sugar spikes by 43% compared to staying seated. Lower blood glucose peaks are tied to better cardiovascular health. [5]

Why Sitting Is So Detrimental and Activity Breaks Are Protective

Sitting for extended periods has myriad negative impacts on cardiovascular and metabolic function that can accumulate over time to raise disease and mortality risk:

  • Being sedentary slows blood flow, reducing shear stress on blood vessel walls that normally triggers production of proteins that improve blood vessel function and health. [6]

  • Sitting decreases lipoprotein lipase activity, an enzyme important for processing fats and sugars in the bloodstream. This contributes to higher cholesterol and blood sugar levels. [7]

  • Prolonged sitting causes muscle contractions and signals in the legs to essentially shut off, reducing glucose uptake into tissues. Blood sugars instead remain elevated, potentially damaging blood vessels. [8]

  • Getting up and moving around, even with light activity, “wakes up” the musculoskeletal system and fuels a cascade of signals and processes that counteract some of these negative vascular and metabolic changes induced by sustained sitting. [9]

Clearly, while limiting total daily sitting time is ideal, simply breaking up bouts of prolonged sitting with short bouts of activity can provide concrete health benefits.

Employer Strategies to Reduce Sedentary Behavior

Given that adults spend a substantial portion of waking hours sitting at work, employers have an opportunity and responsibility to implement policies that promote activity:

  • Adjust workstations to enable working while standing or slow walking
  • Provide prompts and reminders to take movement breaks
  • Build walking routes and signage promoting stair use
  • Offer subsidized fitness trackers that provide personalized step goals
  • Host workplace challenges that incentivize movement

A few small changes to workplace norms and office layouts could make a big difference in supporting the cardiovascular health of employees.

The Outlook Moving Forward

Sitting disease and inactivity physiology are fast-growing areas of scientific focus, with experts predicting additional compelling evidence to come regarding health harms of staying seated for too long. Though definitive public health guidelines have yet to be established, early findings suggest minimizing total sitting time below 6-8 hours daily and avoiding sitting for more than 1-2 hours uninterrupted. Transitioning between postures, from sitting to standing to walking, even for just a minute or two each hour, appears to be one of the most straightforward and sustainable ways to mitigate sitting’s risks.


References

  1. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-12985621/People-sit-work-greater-risk-dying-cardiovascular-disease-compared-workers-stand-jobs-scientists-warn.html
  2. https://www.the-sun.com/health/10138932/sitting-desk-office-death-risk-heart-disease/amp/
  3. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/people-who-sit-alhow-an-extra-15-to-30-minutes-of-exercise-per-day-can-offset-the-health-risks-of-sitting
  4. https://www.the-sun.com/health/10138932/sitting-desk-office-death-risk-heart-disease/
  5. https://studyfinds.org/sitting-30-minutes-exercise/
  6. https://www.healio.com/news/cardiology/20240119/regular-breaks-physical-activity-can-combat-serious-risks-of-prolonged-sitting
  7. https://www.healthline.com/health-news/being-active-for-just-15-minutes-may-offset-full-day-of-sitting-at-work
  8. https://www.shawlocal.com/sauk-valley/opinion/2024/01/16/beyond-trim-please-dont-be-seated/
  9. https://www.communitynewspapergroup.com/news/nation/sitting-too-much-at-work-increases-your-risk-of-death-by-this-much/article_1f130429-36ae-55ca-8be7-dc2669a0272f.html
AiBot

AiBot

Author

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

Related Post