A new study suggests that simply swapping 10 sedentary minutes of your day for 10 minutes of activity -- and pretty much any kind of activity -- can help you live longer.
“When we compare people who exercise the same amount, those who sit less and move around more tend to live longer,” lead author Ezra Fishman of UPenn said in a statement.
The study, published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, says small changes, even in already active people, can make a lasting impact. To measure the effects of physical activity, the researchers looked at around 3,000 adults, aged 50-79, who were part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control.
Participants wore a highly sensitive activity tracker, called an accelerometer, which tracks activity by the minute, for one week. Researchers then followed the mortality rates of the participants for the next eight years.
The least active people were three times as likely to die during the follow-up period as moderately active people, and five times more likely than highly active people. And when we say activity, we're not necessarily talking about breaking a sweat or hitting the gym. Researchers say even simple activities like walking around the home, doing chores like washing dishes or even sweeping are better than sitting at a desk all day.
Though there's no magic number for how much activity you should have each day, per se, researchers say as little as 10 minutes can help make a difference.
"You didn’t have to even get a good sweat to experience the reduced likelihood of mortality,” Fishman said. “Activity doesn’t have to be especially vigorous to be beneficial. That’s the public health message.”
People with chronic conditions were not included in the study, to make sure the results weren't skewed, and researchers say their study is more accurate than similar findings. In self-reported studies, subjects can sometimes overestimate how active they really are, but with an accelerometer, there's less chance of errors.
There's a lot of research that backs up the claim that a sedentary lifestyle can be bad for your health. Besides contributing to obesity, diabetes and liver disease, sitting has also been shown to have negative effects on mental health, by increasing anxiety. Research suggests simply going to the gym to counter sitting all day isn't enough, and things like standing desks, walking breaks or even sitting on a yoga ball can help keep your body active and engaged.
Every little bit really does help.
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