Exercising for just 30 minutes counteracts a day of sitting

Vast majority of people who have office jobs end up spending a large portion of their working day tethered to a chair in front of their desk. This sedentary lifestyle takes a toll on health, even leading to early death.

However, it is not all gloom for office workers. A new study shows that just 30 minutes of physical activity a day, can offset a full day of sitting behind a desk. For their study, researchers from Columbia University evaluated 7,999 healthy adults, ages 45 and older, who previously participated in a separate study that required them to wear activity monitors for at least four days between 2009 and 2013.

The research team used the data from the monitors — which recorded the amount and intensity of physical activity they did — and, over the course of five years, tracked the mortalities and health risks the participants experienced.

The study found that substituting 30 minutes of sitting with light physical activity could lower your risks of an early death by about 17 percent.

Replace that sedentary time with more moderate to vigorous exercise, like running and biking, and you will cut the risk of early mortality by 35 percent. Even short 1 to 2-minute bursts of movement were linked to long-term valuable health benefits.

The study shows that if you have a job or lifestyle that involves a lot of sitting, you can lower your risk of early death by moving more often, for as long as you want and as your ability allows — whether that means taking an hour-long high-intensity spin class or choosing lower-intensity activities, like walking.

Sitting for long periods of times — like six to eight hours a day — has increased risk of developing truncal obesity, hypertension, higher blood sugar, [and] higher cholesterol levels leading to metabolic syndrome, which then increases risk of heart attack, stroke, and death from those events.

This happens because when we sit for an extended period of time, our metabolic system essentially goes to sleep. We expend less energy, which leads to a build-up of energy in the form of fat. This can trigger an increase in stress hormones, which leads to higher blood pressure and blood sugar — both of which can increase our risk for chronic diseases.

Moreover, when we are sedentary for hours, our blood is not pumping as steadily throughout the entire body. This can cause our legs to swell up and develop both varicose veins and blood clots.

The body was designed to get up and move. When we move, we increase our muscle strength and cardiovascular health all while cutting down our chances of developing many diseases, such as cancer and diabetes. Movement can also improve our overall mood, decrease stress levels, and, ultimately, prolong our lifespan.