Does 30 minutes of exercise counteract sitting?

Like many of us, I follow CDC guidelines to exercise at least 30 minutes each day. I fill my time with walking my dog, exercising on YouTube, or riding a stationary bike, and I always feel better when I’m done. However, I can’t help but wonder if that half an hour really counteracts all the time I spend sitting. At the end of a long working day, my hips, back and shoulders still ache and my hip flexors are tense.

Curious, I delved into the research and found the short answer: 30 minutes of daily exercise no no cancel all day sitting. Still, adding more exercise to your daily routine can help counteract the effects of a sedentary lifestyle.

What research says about sitting

We already know that sitting for a long time is not good for us. Doctors and physical therapists note that this causes poor circulation and can weaken the large muscles of the legs and buttocks. If you are over 50, weakening your leg muscles makes you more likely to fall and injure yourself, and sitting for long periods can shorten your hip flexors, which can lead to problems with your hip joints. In addition, bad posture can cause the discs in your spine to compress more than they should and accelerate their degeneration. But how does a sedentary lifestyle affect your longevity?

A large body of research confirms that sitting for long periods is detrimental to our long-term health. A recent study published in JAMA Cardiology Then, over 100,000 participants reported that sitting for eight hours or more a day correlated with a higher risk of death and cardiovascular disease. In contrast, sitting for less than four hours a day and exercising daily significantly reduced this risk.

Another study published in British Journal of Sports Medicine in 2021 looked at the benefits of 30 minutes of daily exercise. After observing more than 130,000 participants for approximately 14 years, researchers found that half an hour of exercise reduced the risk of death by up to 80 percent in people who spent less than seven hours sitting down. However, 30 minutes of exercise had a less positive effect on those who spent seven to 11 hours sitting and had no positive effect on those who spent more than 11 hours sitting.

So, if you spend less than seven hours a day sitting, 30 minutes of exercise may be enough. But the more hours you spend sitting, the more physical activity you’ll need to counteract that sitting time.

How many exercises do you need

Here’s what the researchers recommend: If you have to work eight hours a day at your desk, you should engage in about an hour of moderate or rigorous physical activity each day. When you are not working, don’t sit down and watch TV or scroll on your phone! Instead, spend two to four hours of light activity before and after work.

Here are some ways to get more active:

  • Invest in a treadmill and put it in your TV room so you can walk around watching your favorite shows.
  • Take your puppy for a long walk each morning or do the housework before work.
  • After completing a project or large task, spend five or 10 minutes stretching or doing squats. (Taking five minutes to stretch every hour is also useful, but many people find it difficult to hold on to it because it interferes with their concentration.)
  • While you’re cooking dinner, use your cooking time for a quick workout in the kitchen.
  • Invest in a standing desk. Standing is not as beneficial as walking and can lead to sore feet without proper shoes, but it will help you work on your balance and posture.

Spend more time exercising at weekends. Go for longer walks and, if you can, increase your pace for about 20 minutes. If you are not interested in walking, sign up for weekend dance classes, yoga or water aerobics. The more you move your body, the greater the investment in your long-term health.

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