Can 20 Minutes of Exercise REALLY Make a Difference?

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

In today's modern world, many of us spend the majority of our days sitting, whether at a desk, in front of a computer, or commuting to work. This sedentary lifestyle has been linked to many health issues, including obesity, heart disease, and certain types of cancers. However, a recent study suggests that just 22 minutes of exercise a day can help mitigate the risks associated with prolonged sitting, particularly for individuals over 50.

The study, which combined data from several large-scale studies in Norway, Sweden, and the United States, tracked the activity levels of over 12,000 participants aged 50 and older. Participants wore wearable devices to monitor their activity and sedentary behaviour, and were followed for at least two years. The researchers found that individuals who were sedentary for more than 12 hours a day had a 38% higher risk of death compared to those who were sedentary for eight hours. However, this increased risk was mitigated for those who engaged in at least 22 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily.

The findings highlight the importance of regular physical activity in offsetting the negative effects of prolonged sitting. Even short bouts of exercise, such as a brisk walk during lunch or taking the stairs instead of the elevator, can have a significant impact on health. The study also found that higher daily durations of physical activity were associated with lower mortality risk, regardless of total sedentary time. For example, an additional ten minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day could lower mortality risk by up to 15% for those who were sedentary for less than 10.5 hours a day, and by up to 35% for those who were highly sedentary (10.5 hours a day or more).

It's important to note that this study was observational, so causation cannot be definitively determined. Additionally, the study focused on individuals aged 50 and older, so the results may not be directly applicable to younger age groups. However, the results align with previous research suggesting that regular physical activity can help offset the health risks associated with sedentary behaviour.
It’s clear: incorporating just 22 minutes of exercise into your daily routine can have a significant impact on your health and longevity, especially if you spend a lot of time sitting. Whether it's a short workout at home or a brisk walk around the neighbourhood, every minute of physical activity counts towards improving your overall health.

Source: Sagelv EH, Hopstock LA, Morseth B, et al. Br J Sports Med 2023; 57: 1457-1463.

Share the article