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September 2019

Sit less, move more and more often

Physical activity at any intensity linked to lower risk of early death but being sedentary for several hours a day linked to increased risk

A new analysis presents clear evidence that higher levels of physical activity - regardless of intensity - are associated with a lower risk of early death in middle aged and older people.

The study, published by The BMJ, also found that sitting still for more than 9.5 hours a day (excluding sleeping time) is associated with an increased risk of death.

Previous studies have repeatedly suggested that sedentary behaviour is bad and physical activity is good for health and long life.

Guidelines recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity each week, but are based mainly on self-reported activity, which is often imprecise. So exactly how much activity (and at what intensity) is needed to protect health remains unclear.

Researchers led by Professor Ulf Ekelund at the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences in Oslo analysed eight, high quality, observational studies assessing physical activity and sedentary time with death ('all cause mortality').

They found that any level of physical activity, regardless of intensity, was associated with a substantially lower risk of death. In contrast, spending 9.5 hours or more each day sedentary was associated with a statistically significant increased risk of death.

They say their results can reinforce the public health message to 'sit less and move more, and more often.'

Examples of light intensity activity includes walking slowly or light tasks such as cooking or washing dishes. Moderate activity includes brisk walking, vacuuming or mowing the lawn, while vigorous activity includes jogging, carrying heavy loads or digging.

Ekelund U, et al. BMJ 2019;366:14570