One Hour a Day: Exercise Offsets Sitting’s Ills

Fear not, office dwellers. Even one hour of exercise a day can offset the detrimental effects of 8 hours of sitting at your desk, according to a recent study.

Led by Ulf Ekelund, a professor of physical activity and health at the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, the study’s team set out to see if the benefits of exercise could actually cancel out the negative effects of being sedentary.

It’s no secret that sitting too long is bad for you. Predisposition to cancer, type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, elevated blood pressure, obesity, and premature death are just some of the potential harms. Basically the opposite of the previous list, almighty exercise can combat blood sugar problems, normalize blood pressure, and fight obesity.

To see the connection, the study reviewed 16 different studies that provided “both daily sitting or TV-viewing time and physical activity, and reported effect estimates for all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease mortality, or breast, colon, and colorectal cancer mortality.” The studies included more than one million participants, mostly older than 45 years old, from Western Europe, the United States, and Australia.

After a comprehensive review, the conclusion was yes; just 60 to 75 minutes of moderate movement a day could eliminate the ills of staying still.

It appears that any type of exercise counts, as long as the exercise is of “moderate intensity”, like brisk walking or a leisurely bike ride, Ekelund said.

“The take-home message is that every minute of activity counts even if you can’t achieve one hour of activity every day,” Ekelund said. “Sit less, move more, and the more the better.”

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To make the results even more palatable to those inclined to be lazy, it appears that shorter increments of exercise can be as beneficial as a one-hour block. So desk workers should think in terms of before work, after work, and during breaks to squeeze in that hour.

“The simple answer is that the required hour of activity can be broken up,” Ekelund said.