Care To Offset All Your Office Sitting? It'll Take Just An Hour A Day

Jul 28, 2016
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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

If you are just ending an eight-hour day at work, maybe more than eight hours, and you have been sitting most of the day, here is some news that might motivate you to exercise. Excessive sitting has been shown to shorten your lifespan. And now there's a new analysis in The Lancet that concludes it is possible to cancel out this risk of premature death.

As NPR's Allison Aubrey reports, you have to move.

ALLISON AUBREY, BYLINE: The idea that sitting is the new smoking is gaining traction. So researchers at Cambridge University in England and the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences wanted to answer this question, how much exercise would it take to reverse the risk of premature death associated with excessive sitting? They analyzed data for more than a million people.

And what they found is that 60 minutes per day seems to do the trick. So does this mean we need to go to the gym for a full hour? Or can we get exercise in in little bits, say, walking to and from work or taking the stairs rather than the elevator? I reached out to the lead author of the study, Ulf Ekelund, who works in Norway. Now, he was expecting my call but...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

COMPUTER-GENERATED VOICE: The person you are calling is not answering.

AUBREY: I don't want to just sit around. So I am going to run up to the sixth floor to get coffee. This should help me reach my quota, right? Turns out, the answer is yes.

ULF EKELUND: Hello, it's Ulf.

AUBREY: Oh, hello, is this Professor Ekelund?

EKELUND: That's correct, yes.

AUBREY: Oh, hi, it's Allison Aubrey here from NPR.

EKELUND: Hi.

AUBREY: So I have decided to do this entire interview while walking.

EKELUND: OK (laughter).

AUBREY: My question to you is, is this going to count towards my hour?

EKELUND: Yeah, I would say so. Well, it slightly depends on your intensity.

AUBREY: Ekelund says you have to get your heart rate up a bit. Walking at a pace of about three miles an hour is enough. Another idea is to bike to work. Ekelund says that's what he does. Now, all of this is good news given the fact that some experts have said sitting all day is lethal, and there's not much you can do about it.

Here's Tim Church of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana.

TIM CHURCH: About a year, two years ago, it was super cool to say, hey, no amount of exercise can neutralize your sitting. And I never bought that.

AUBREY: Church says he's not surprised by the conclusion that daily exercise offsets the risks of sitting eight hours a day. But he says don't get hung up on the 60-minute prescription. The study shows that even 20 minutes a day reduces some of the risk. And the more you can do, the better. Allison Aubrey, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.