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The health risks associated with sitting for eight or more hours a day – whether at work, home or commuting – can be mitigated with 20 minutes or more of physical activity a day, according to a new study.

We all know that an excessively sedentary life is unhealthy. But the health risks associated with prolonged sitting can be reduced and even eliminated by physical activity, according to new research.

The study shows that just half an hour of walking or biking is enough to mitigate the negative effects and an hour’s exercise completely eliminates the risks.

A sedentary life increases the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease and cancer, this has long been known to science. Until recently there has been clear evidence that physical activity could decrease or even completely eliminate the risks associated with sitting still for many hours at work or home.

A new study provides compelling evidence that biking or just walking for more than 20 minutes a day, or 150 minutes a week, reduces the risk of both morbidity and premature death, compared to someone who is physically inactive.

Those who prefer to run or to do other more intensive cardio training need to be active for half as long, 75 minutes a week is enough to acquire the same corresponding effect.

However, to completely eliminate the risks associated with a sedentary life, you need to exercise much more extensively. The study shows that 60 minutes a day, at least, is required to eliminate the risks.

The Swedish research study is a comprehensive overview study of which one million peoples habits have been analyzed. It clearly shows that those who were physically active for at least an hour each day had no increased risk of mortality in either cardiovascular disease or cancer, even though they sat still for eight hours each day.

The research also suggests that the total accumulated amount of exercise each day is what is relevant, not when or how it is performed. So, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, biking or walking, everything counts.


Prof Ulf Ekelund et al. Does physical activity attenuate, or even eliminate, the detrimental association of sitting time with mortality? A harmonised meta-analysis of data from more than 1 million men and women DOI: