Physical activity cuts health risk from sitting

Do you like sitting around? A new study now finds that swapping a half hour of sitting around with physical activity of any intensity or duration cut the risk of early death by as much as 35 per cent in older adults.

Notably, the findings stress on the importance of movement, regardless of its intensity or amount of time spent moving, for a healthier life.

The study was published online in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Talking about it, Keith Diaz, PhD, assistant professor of behavioural medicine at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and lead author of the study said, “Our findings underscore an important public health message that physical activity of any intensity provides health benefits.”

The study found that about one in four adults spends more than eight hours a day sitting.

Earlier, Diaz and his team had discovered that adults who sat for a longer amount of time at a given time, had a greater risk of early death than those who were sedentary for the same amount of time but got up and moved around more often.

The study also found that people who sat for less than 30 minutes at a time had the lowest risk of early death, suggesting that taking movement breaks every half-hour could lower your risk of death.

The current study did a national investigation of racial and regional disparities in stroke between 2009 and 2013. The individuals wore activity monitors for at least four days to record the amount and intensity of physical activity they engaged in while awake. The researchers tabulated the death rate among participants through 2017. Using this data, they estimated how substituting time spent sitting with time being physically active would affect risk of early death.

The study found that replacing just 30 minutes of sitting with low-intensity physical activity would lower the risk of early death by 17 per cent.

Swapping the same amount of sitting for moderate to vigorous activity would be twice as effective, cutting the risk of early death by 35 per cent. The researchers also found that short bursts of activity — of just a minute or two — provided a health benefit.

However, while the study estimated the degree to which the risk of dying from any cause could be cut by swapping sitting for movement, it did not look at specific health-related outcomes.

Speaking about it, Diaz said, “In our next study, we plan to look at the risk of specific cardiovascular outcomes, such as heart attack, heart failure, and cardiovascular-related deaths, associated with physical activity versus sedentary behaviour.”

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First Published: Jan 17, 2019 14:14 IST

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