Being sedentary, or sitting 10 or more hours a day, is linked a higher risk of dying early.
New research suggests exercise can reduce the risk in as little as 20 minutes a day.
Brisk walking, household chores, and taking the stairs all count toward your daily total.
A quick exercise break may help offset the potentially deadly consequences of sitting all day, new research suggests.
While a sedentary lifestyle — sitting for 10 or more hours a day — is linked to higher odds of early death, as little as 20 to 25 minutes may mitigate the risk, according to a study published October 24 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
Researchers from multiple universities, including the University of Tromsø in Norway and Aarhus University in Denmark, looked at data from 12,000 adults aged 50 and older from Norway and Sweden. They compared their activity levels to health outcomes to observe whether exercise might make a difference in an otherwise sedentary lifestyle.
They found that participants who habitually sat for more than 12 hours a day had a 38% higher chance of dying early.
However, that health risk was mitigated if participants managed to clock at least 22 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity each day, from activities like brisk walking, light hiking or biking, or household chores.
The findings add to a growing body of evidence that short bursts of heart-pumping exercise can help offset the serious health risks of sitting all day.
More exercise is linked to more health benefits
The researchers found that increasing time spent exercising was linked to an increasingly lower risk of death, regardless of how many hours a day people spent sitting.
That's consistent with a wealth of previous evidence that suggests exercise is great for health, with benefits like better mood, more energy, and lower risk of illnesses like heart disease and cancer.
But for more sedentary people, more movement seemed to have more significant health benefits. For instance, an extra 10 minutes a day of exercise was linked to 15% lower risk of death for people who sat less than 10 hours a day. For people who were more sedentary, sitting at least 10 and a half hours a day, the same 10 minutes of exercise was linked to 35% lower risk of death.
Past research has also found small doses of exercise can have big benefits. A study published in February found that as little as 11 minutes of exercise per day was linked to lower risk of early death.
Getting your heart rate up can boost your health
Moderate exercise is typically defined as activities that raise your heart rate but allows you to carry a conversation, including a brisk walk, bike ride, or even a session of playing with kids or pets. Vigorous activity includes things like hiking, taking the stairs, or carrying heavy groceries.
Evidence suggests a bit of intensity can help you make the most out of short bursts of exercise by getting your heart pumping and your muscles working.
Low intensity exercise like walking can still pay off, though. The most recent study found that for people who sat more than 12 hours a day, light activity could also help reduce the risk of early death.
If you're completely sedentary, the best thing you can do for your health is start somewhere, even if it's taking a trip down the block and back, experts previously told Insider. Recent research suggests that walking can play a major role in preventing chronic illness, and the benefits start at just an extra 500 steps per day.
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