In a study published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (CJASNU), researchers at the University of Utah found sedentary workers reduced their risk of dying by engaging in light movement for just two minutes each hour.

On the Move: How Much Do You Need to Lengthen Your Life

To encourage physical fitness and reduce rising rates of obesity, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued activity guidelines in 2008. By age, the guidelines include:

  • Children six to 17 years old: 60 minutes or more of daily physical activity
  • Adults 18 to 64 years old: Two and a half hours of moderate, aerobic, physical activity per week at intervals of no less than 10 minutes.
  • Seniors: If unable to maintain moderately intense activity of 150 minutes per week, exercise as able.

In 2012, a study from the Pennington Biomedical Research Center shook the working world with results suggesting active workers live approximately two years longer than those who sit all day, regardless of fitness activities outside of work hours. Further gains in life expectancy were seen when hours spent watching television were reduced.

In its campaign to increase cardiovascular health in the United States, the American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of brisk walking daily to reduce risk of diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.

The message is clear, move more, sit less. But for time-pressed adults of all ages, the outcome of the observational study conducted by the University of Utah suggests a little movement every hour can go a long way.

"Small Change, Big Impact" Says Study

Federal guidelines and common sense promote the idea that regular exercise over time improves health. This new research suggests even small efforts to increase activity pay off, and can lengthen your life.

Looking at data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), study authors wondered what kind of activity could offset the danger of sitting all day.

The research involved more than 3,000 participants who wore accelerometers for three years. The devices measured the intensity of their movement during a working day. During the study period, there were 137 deaths.

Points of the study include:

  • Gains were experienced by those who engaged in light activity for two minutes on the hour, instead of continuing to sit at their desk, or station. Light intensity activities include walking around the office, going up or down stairs, or physically visiting with colleagues.
  • The study recommends people who are sedentary spend at least two minutes of each hour engaged in light movement.

Does this mean taking a coffee break every hour replaces the 2.5 hours of exercise recommended by the federal government? Unfortunately not.

Notes lead author Srinivasan Beddhu, MD, "Based on these results we would recommend adding two minutes of walking each hour in combination with normal activities, which should include 2.5 hours of moderate exercise each week."

The study offers valuable evidence of health gains available to adults who can add light intensity walking, gardening, or other activity to their waking hours. Tom Green, PhD, and senior author of the study sums up these findings, stating, "Exercise is great, but the reality is that the practical amount of vigorous exercise that can be achieved is limited. Our study suggests that even small changes can have a big impact."

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