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“Sit less – move more often”: scientists’ secret to longer life

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The secret to a healthy life may be constantly debated but “sit less – move more often” is the tip from two scientists after their study of 36,000 people showed that sitting for 9.5 hours a day increased the likelihood of premature death.


Participants aged 40 and above were given a motion sensor to wear on a belt for a period of around six years to find out how movement could be linked to health outcomes.

More than 2,500 participants died in the time frame, the British Medical Journal study showed.

The risk of dying was around 60 per cent lower for the most active people compared with the least active. There was overall a more than a five-fold difference between groups. 

Results showed that just 24 minutes per day (168 minutes per week) of moderate to vigorous intensity activity such as brisk walking, mowing the lawn or jogging was enough to see the greatest risk reduction in early death. Doing more than this did not seem to lower the risk further.

“Our results suggest strong associations between total physical activity and the risk of dying. This finding was irrespective of the intensity of activity,” wrote professors Ulf Ekelund and Thomas Yates for the BMJ on 15 August.

“The observation that light intensity physical activity also provided substantial health benefits is important for public health as this suggests that older people and those who are not able to be physically active at higher intensities will still benefit from just moving around.”

The study found that sitting for longer than 9.5 hours per day was associated with an increased risk of death.

“Since sedentary behaviours and physical activity seem to be interrelated, a simple public health message would be to “sit less—move more and more often,” they added.  

24 minutes per day of activity such as brisk walking was enough to see risk reduction in early death

Workplace sitting has been linked to cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, colon, endometrial, lung and breast cancers and depression in several recent studies. In HSE's Sedentary Work and Health policy paper, HSE acknowledged these health outcomes, but said evidence is muddied by most studies relying on self-reporting which is notoriously unreliable.

However, in the BMJ paper, the work only included measurable inactivity and the health outcomes.

“Most previous evidence underlying current physical activity recommendations are derived from data from large observational studies where people self-report how physically active they are," said the authors. 

“Unfortunately, self-reported physical activity is prone to misreporting because people may often regard their levels of physical activity as higher than they actually are.

“This is the largest study to date examining the associations between device measured physical activity and the risk of death.” 

The study was also adjusted their analyses for sex, age, smoking, body mass index, and socioeconomic status in order to take out confounding factors that may influence the findings.  

BMJ paper: Dose-response associations between accelerometry measured physical activity and sedentary time and all cause mortality here

In the hot seat: the health hazards of prolonged sitting here

 

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