Our lives are becoming increasingly stationary and our health is now suffering as a result. Fact.
This is because we are spending an exceeding amount of our day in environments where we sit for extended periods of time – whether that be in the car, train, at the desk or watching television. Prolonged periods of reduced movement can have disastrous ramifications on our health, including the increased risk of obesity, heart disease, cancer which can lead to premature death. However, new research suggests that just 22 minutes of exercise per day can thwart the impending health risks that a sedentary lifestyle can cause.
The paper compiled three studies from Norway, one from Sweden and one from the United States. In total, 12,000 people aged 50 or older wore wearable devices to track activity levels on a day-to-day basis over a period of 17 years.
Whilst it has long been established that a sedentary lifestyle could be linked with higher mortality rates, this study has conveyed that even amongst our busy day-to-day lives, just 22 minutes of physical activity is enough to offset serious health risks.
Moreover, the exertion does not have to be all at once or necessarily done in an exercise-focused environment. The 22 minutes observed in the study did not occur all at once, rather it was an accumulation of activity across the day which would have included incidental exercise – such as climbing stairs.
How to squeeze 22 minutes of movement into your day
Not everyone has the time to dedicate an hour a day to going to the gym or taking a walk, but according to research, just 22 minutes of daily activity is enough to potentially thwart heart disease and other serious illnesses. If you don’t have time in your day to dedicate to exercise, why not try movement snacking? As opposed to a full-blown hour workout, ‘movement snacking’ is the concept of doing physical activity in short bursts anywhere from one to 10 minutes. Moreover, ‘movement snacking’ doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be jogging or lifting weights, you can get squeeze in exertion within everyday tasks that you’re probably already doing each day.
Here are four ‘movement snack’ suggestions to achieve that 22-minute window of physical exertion:
- Utilise your work space: Sometimes the hardest part of physical activity is finding the time to do it, one easy way to sneak in physical movement into your agenda is to make do with what’s around you. Working at a standing desk or taking a brief walk every hour is a great way to incorporate movement into your day.
- Take the stairs: After a long day, you might just want to hop into the elevator. However, taking the stairs provides an easy opportunity to do your 22 minutes of exertion. Not only will this get the heart rate up, but it will also get blood flowing to your legs.
- Take the long way: Whether it’s walking to the furthest train carriage for your commute or parking at the other end of the carpark and walking – taking the long way is another easy way to achieve a bit of movement in your day-to-day.
- Use your lunch break: Using your lunch break to take a quick walk is not only great for your general health, but the change of scenery and fresh air is a great way to refresh your mind before attacking the rest of your day.
What you need to know about sedentary lifestyles
The researchers in the study concluded that participants who were sedentary for more than 12 hours had the highest risk of dying, this was followed by those who were sedentary for eight hours a day.
The research team was able to identify that the majority of participants who died did not exercise for more than 22 minutes a day. In comparison, those who completed moderate to vigorous physical exertion for over 22 minutes daily – irrespective of the amount of sedentary time – presented with fewer health concerns at the conclusion of the study.
A number of factors have contributed to the rise of the sedentary lifestyle. Living spaces such as work, school and homes are constantly being re-engineered to minimise and bypass excessive movement. In terms of work, less and less people are undertaking jobs that require strenuous physical activity. This is backed up by statistics from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which revealed that nearly half (49.4%) of employed people aged 18-64 years described their day at work as mostly sitting.
Technological advances with televisions, phones and computers also mean that we spend the majority of our day connected to the internet rather than moving.
But, as science proves, it is easier than you thought to fit exercise easily into your daily life.