The Hamilton Spectator - - GO - ARI­ANA EUNJUNG CHA

If you fear you’re do­ing ir­repara­ble dam­age to your body be­cause your white-col­lar job keeps you sit­ting at your desk from 9 to 5, or you reg­u­larly spend en­tire week­ends sprawled out on your couch binge­watch­ing Net­flix, there’s some good news just out from sports medicine re­searchers.

Ac­cord­ing to a study pub­lished in The Lancet, all is not lost. You may be able to “make up” for your in­creased risk of death due to a seden­tary lifestyle by en­gag­ing in enough phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity. So just how much is enough? The first thing you need to know is that it’s not a fixed num­ber. The ra­tio is based on the amount of sit­ting you do daily. If you sit four hours a day, you need to do at least 30 min­utes of ex­er­cise. An eighthour work day of sit­ting means one hour of ex­er­cise.

The num­bers come from an anal­y­sis based on a very large pool of peo­ple, about 1 mil­lion adults, 45 and older, from the United States, West­ern Eu­rope and Aus­tralia. The find­ings show a risk re­duc­tion or even elim­i­na­tion for your risk of death from heart dis­ease, di­a­betes and some cancers.

Re­searcher Ulf Ekelund, a pro­fes­sor at the Nor­we­gian School of Sports Sciences, sug­gested that the one hour of ac­tiv­ity could be brisk walk­ing or cy­cling but said that the ex­er­cise doesn’t have to be so rig­or­ous or all at one time. That is, the hour of ac­tiv­ity can be spread out over the en­tire day.

“We did not an­a­lyze your data in this way, but all avail­able ev­i­dence sug­gests that the one hour can be done in shorter in­ter­vals. My per­sonal opin­ion is that ev­ery sin­gle minute of ac­tiv­ity counts,” he said in an email.

Ekelund’s anal­y­sis looked at in­for­ma­tion from 16 pre­vi­ous stud­ies and clas­si­fied par­tic­i­pants into four groups de­pend­ing on their ac­tiv­ity level. Those in the least-ac­tive bucket were ac­tive less than five min­utes a day, while those who were most ac­tive ex­er­cised 60 to 75 min­utes a day.

The find­ings sug­gest that the per­son who sits longer isn’t nec­es­sar­ily worse off: Those who sat for eight hours a day but were phys­i­cally ac­tive were bet­ter off in terms of risk of death than those who sat for fewer hours but were not phys­i­cally ac­tive.

The ideal amount of ex­er­cise peo­ple should do has been a source of heated de­bate in re­cent years. Fit­ness-band com­pa­nies have pushed 10,000 steps a day as a goal. The World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion rec­om­mends at least 150 min­utes of ac­tiv­ity a week. The Amer­i­can Heart As­so­ci­a­tion rec­om­mends 30 min­utes a day.

This study is the lat­est to rec­om­mend a higher thresh­old for the min­i­mum amount of ex­er­cise.

Another prom­i­nent study, pub­lished last Oc­to­ber in the jour­nal Cir­cu­la­tion, ar­gued that phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity and heart fail­ure may be “dose de­pen­dent,” with higher lev­els of phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity low­er­ing the risk pro­por­tion­ally.

Too busy to com­mit to that much ex­er­cise? Some ev­i­dence sug­gests “mi­crobursts” of ex­tremely in­tense ex­er­cise to get your heart rate up to 90 per cent of its max­i­mum may help — al­though it’s un­clear ex­actly how that high-in­ten­sity in­ter­val train­ing, or HIIT, com­pares to tra­di­tional ac­tiv­ity.

De­spite the seem­ingly daunt­ing con­clu­sion that couch pota­toes need to ex­er­cise even more than was thought, Ekelund thinks the mes­sage from his study is a pos­i­tive one: that it’s pos­si­ble to re­duce or even elim­i­nate the risk of a mostly seden­tary lifestyle if peo­ple be­come more ac­tive.

Prac­ti­cally speak­ing, that means 30 min­utes of mod­er­ate ac­tiv­ity per day may be fine for some peo­ple, but it’s a dif­fer­ent story for the le­gions of mod­ern-day com­muters with of­fice-based jobs.

“The cur­rent pub­lic health rec­om­men­da­tions for phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity are based on very solid ev­i­dence and our data sup­port these ... How­ever, if you sit for many hours a day (i.e. > 8 hours) you need to do at least one hour of mod­er­ate ac­tiv­ity ev­ery day to off­set the as­so­ci­a­tion be­tween sit­ting time and mor­tal­ity,” Ekelund wrote.


Ex­er­cis­ing at least one hour for ev­ery eight hours spent sit­ting at work could help mit­i­gate our in­creased risk of death from heart dis­ease, di­a­betes and some cancers.

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