For years now, studies have been telling us how bad it is to sit around all day. Sedentary lifestyles, in the sense of sitting in your car on the way to and from work, sitting at work, and then sitting at home, can lead to earlier deaths than people who are more active. Around 5 million people die each year, around the world, because they don’t get enough physical activity.
Luckily, for those of us who are prone to a sedentary lifestyle, it’s not too hard to offset all that sitting. A recent study in The Lancet has found that the real problem isn’t the sitting so much as the lack of activity.
Sedentary people, according to the findings, are more between 28 and 59 percent more likely to die early compared with more active people.
But, says Professor Ulf Ekelund from the Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge, “Our message is a positive one: it is possible to reduce—or even eliminate—these risks if we are active enough.”
The study found that an hour of physical activity a day can offset the health risks of a sedentary lifestyle. Going to the gym or playing sports isn’t necessary, they say. In fact, an hour of moderate exercise per day can reduce the risk of early death. Moderate exercise, defined as walking 3.5 miles an hour or cycling 10 miles an hour, is enough.
“An hour of physical activity per day is the ideal,” says Professor Ekelund, “but if this is unmanageable, then at least doing some exercise each day can help reduce the risk.”
There are plenty of ways to work in some exercise, from walking during lunch, to walking the dog after work. Everyone’s life is different, so finding ways to build up to an hour of exercise over the course of the day is an individual effort. But for the sake of long-term health, it’s worth it.