A new study recommends that people who work in a sedentary, office situation should get an hour of “brisk exercise” every day to offset the risk of early death.
The recommendations were published in the journal Lancet, which also reported that heart disease, diabetes and some cancers caused by a sedentary lifestyle cost the global economy $67.5 billion every year.
Lack of activity is also linked to some 5.3 million deaths each year, even more than smoking.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends adults get 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise per week in addition to two hours of muscle strengthening per week.
"For many people who commute to work and have office-based jobs, there is no way to escape sitting for prolonged periods of time,” said lead author Professor Ulf Ekelund, of the Norwegian School of Sports Sciences, Norway and the University of Cambridge. “For these people in particular, we cannot stress enough the importance of getting exercise, whether it's getting out for a walk at lunchtime, going for a run in the morning or cycling to work. An hour of physical activity per day is the ideal, but if this is unmanageable, then at least doing some exercise each day can help reduce the risk."
For the study, researchers looked at 13 previous studies on the impact of inactivity. Study subjects were classified according to the amount of activity they reported, with some reporting less than 5 minutes a day to 60 - 75 minutes a day.
They found that those who sat for 8 hours a day, but got the recommended amount of exercise reduced their chances of a premature death compared even to those who sat less but were not active.
"There has been a lot of concern about the health risks associated with today's more sedentary lifestyles," says Ekelund. "Our message is a positive one: it is possible to reduce - or even eliminate - these risks if we are active enough, even without having to take up sports or go to the gym."