Next time you get up and walk to the bathroom, you can feel good about doing something positive for your health.
Seriously, though. New research suggests that even casually walking for an extra two minutes each hour may help you live a longer life.
For the observational study, researchers from Northwestern Medical School analyzed data from 3,626 participants in an existing study on aging, and followed up with them for three years. They found that trading two minutes per hour of sedentary activity for normal-paced walking was associated with a one-third lower risk of dying. Among individuals with chronic kidney disease, the risk of dying was 41 percent lower.
The study is part of research that suggests we may focus too much on intense exercise at the expense of what's a realistic expectation for the average person. While moderate to vigorous physical activity is very important for cardiovascular health, low-intensity and incidental physical activity can play an essential role.
"Even if one were to achieve the recommended 2.5 hours per week of moderate activity, that is still only about two percent of the total awake hours in a week, assuming that you are awake 16 hours a day," the study's lead author, Dr. Srinivasan Beddhu of the University of Utah, told The Huffington Post. "I think what we do in the rest of the 98 percent of time is very important and has health consequences."
Of course, this doesn't mean that those extra two minutes are enough to keep you fit and healthy. For optimum benefit, keep up with your regular cardio and strength-training regimen -- but also swap those two minutes an hour of sitting time with light activity when you can.
"Combining light activity with the recommended moderate-to-vigorous activity goals has the potential to double weekly energy expenditure," Beddhu said.
Plus, anything that reduces the time we spend sitting is going to be beneficial; the fact that sitting is bad for your health is nothing new. A substantial body of research has linked sitting for long periods with health risks including heart disease, diabetes, cancer and early death, even among people who get the recommended daily amount of exercise.
The takeaway? "We need to have 'sedentary awareness' and be conscious of how much time we spend sitting," Beddhu said.
The findings will be published in a forthcoming issue of the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (CJASN).