Middle-aged couch potatoes can slash their risk of early death by doing just 20 minutes of exercise a day, according to new research.
Researchers found that 20 to 25 minutes of daily physical activity for people over 50 prolongs life, regardless of the time they spend seated.
And higher daily tallies of exercise lower the risk further, according to the findings published online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
Previous research has shown that adults spend an average of nine to 10 hours every day sitting down, mostly during working hours.
And a highly sedentary lifestyle is associated with a heightened risk of death.
The team behind the new study says much of the previously published research on the benefits of physical activity to counter prolonged time seated has relied on aggregated data, which results in a “broad brush” approach.
Instead, the Norwegian researchers pooled data from individual participant in four groups of people fitted with activity trackers to find out whether physical activity might modify the association between sedentary time and death, and vice versa.
They also looked at the amount of physical activity and sitting time that might influence risk.
They included Individual participant data collected between 2003 and 2019 from two Norwegian studies, a Swedish study and an American study.
More than 11,000 people aged at least 50 were included in the analysis.
The participants had a minimum of four days of 10 daily hours of activity tracker records, had been monitored for at least two years.
They also provided details of potentially influential factors, including sex, educational level, weight, height, smoking history, alcohol intake, and whether they had current or previous cardiovascular disease, cancer or diabetes.
Overall, 5,943 people spent fewer than 10.5 hours sitting down every day; while 6,042 clocked up 10.5 or more sedentary hours.
Analysis of the activity tracker data showed that being sedentary for more than 12 hours a day was associated with a 38 percent heightened risk of death compared with a daily tally of eight hours – but only among those totting up fewer than 22 daily minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity.
Study author Dr. Edvard Sagelv said: “More than 22 daily minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity was associated with a lower risk of death.
“While a higher amount of moderate to vigorous physical activity was associated with a lower risk of death, irrespective of the amount of sedentary time, the association between sedentary time and death was largely influenced by the amount of moderate to vigorous physical activity.
“For example, an extra 10 minutes a day was associated with a 15 percent lower risk of death in those spending fewer than 10.5 sedentary hours, and a 35 percent lower risk among those spending more than 10.5 sedentary hours, every day.”
He said light intensity physical activity was only associated with a lower risk of death among people who spent more than 12 hours a day seated.
Dr. Sagelv, of The Arctic University of Norway, added: “Efforts to promote physical activity may have substantial health benefits for individuals.
“Small amounts of MVPA – moderate to vigorous physical activity – may be an effective strategy to ameliorate the mortality risk from high sedentary time, where accumulating more than 22 minutes of MVPA eliminates the risk of high sedentary time.”
Produced in association with SWNS Talker