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Sit too much? Researchers offer up a variety of ‘activity cocktails’

Photo: kali9/iStockphoto

New York — Thirty minutes of moderate exercise five times a week – the minimum recommended under the World Health Organization’s updated guidance on physical activity – might not be enough for people who sit too much the rest of the day, say researchers, who recommend a daily “cocktail” of activity.

A team of international researchers reviewed data from six studies that involved more than 130,000 adults in the United States, the United Kingdom and Sweden who wore wrist and hip accelerometers. Combinations of activities – from moderate/vigorous exercise (e.g., brisk walking, running) and light physical activities (e.g., housework, casual walking) to sedentary behavior – were analyzed to determine their effect on mortality.

Results show that although 30 minutes of moderate/vigorous exercise reduced the risk of earlier death up to 80% among people who sat less than seven hours a day, it didn’t reduce mortality risk for those who sat 11-12 hours a day.

The researchers found that three minutes of moderate/vigorous activity per hour of sitting was optimal to improve health and reduce the risk of early death up to 30%, as long as the person also spent six hours engaging in light physical activity. Using this formula, they produced these three examples of activity cocktails:

  • 55 minutes of exercise, four hours of light activity and 11 hours of sitting
  • 13 minutes of exercise, 5.5 hours of light activity and 10.3 hours of sitting
  • Three minutes of exercise, six hours of light physical activity and 9.7 hours of sitting

“A healthy movement profile requires more than 30 minutes of daily exercise,” study co-author Keith Diaz, an assistant professor of behavioral medicine and director of the exercise testing laboratory at the Center for Behavioral Cardiovascular Health at Columbia University, said in a press release. “Moving around and not remaining sedentary all day also matters. It is not as simple as checking off that ‘exercise’ box on your to-do list.”

The study was published online May 18 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

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