New Research Shows How to Live Longer

You'd better get moving!

Posted Aug 05, 2016

StockSnap.io, used with permission.
Source: StockSnap.io, used with permission.

You already know that sedentary behavior—sitting at a desk all day or watching television for hours on end—can result not only in weight gain, but in a higher risk of developing chronic health conditions that can lead to death. In fact, health experts estimate that more than five million deaths worldwide can be attributed to a lack of physical activity. As a result, we now know that to get the most out of your life, it’s just as important to get enough exercise as it is to maintain a healthy weight and avoid smoking.

Researchers contributing to recent reports in The Lancet Physical Activity Series set out to discover whether or not (and how much) physical activity can make up for or reduce the threat of a sedentary lifestyle. After reviewing 16 related studies from around the world that followed more than one million men and women for up to 18 years, the researchers found that those who sat for eight hours a day or watched TV for three or more hours a day were at no higher risk of dying as long as they also got enough exercise over the course of the week. Even those who sat for less than four hours a day were at just as high a risk of dying early unless they were also very active.

The bottom line: No matter how many hours you spend sitting in an average day, it is important to get the recommended amount of weekly exercise if you want to increase your odds of living a long and healthy life.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults age 18-64 need at least two and a half hours of moderate intensity aerobic activity every week and muscle-strengthening activities that work all the major muscle groups on two or more days each week. It doesn’t matter how you break it up, as long as you are getting moderate or vigorous exercise for at least 10 minutes at a time. Notice the guideline says “at least.” The more you exercise, the more you are likely to benefit.

Where you live can make all the difference in how easy it is for you to get enough exercise. If you’re lucky enough to live in an activity-friendly neighborhood—where it is easy to walk, ride a bicycle, or otherwise get in some exercise while travelling from point to point, and where it is also easy to participate in outdoor activities in local parks—you can get about half the recommended amount of exercise out of the way simply by taking advantage the environmental design of your city or town.

For more specific exercise recommendations for different age groups, and variations on the amount and types of of exercise you can get each week to improve your health risks, check out the CDC Physical Activity Basics page.  

Sources

Ekelund U, Steene-Johannessen J, Brown WJ, 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. The Lancet. 27 July 2016. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(16)30370-1. http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(16)30370-1/abstract

Sallis JF, Cerin E, Conway TL, et al. Physical activity in relation to urban environments in 14 cities worldwide: a cross-sectional study. Lancet. 28 May 2016;387(10034):2207-2217. http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(15)01284-2/fulltext

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Physical Activity.  Updated July 5, 2016. http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/index.html