Harvard Heart Letter

Exercise as an antidote for excessive sitting?

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exercise as an antidote for excessive sitting?
Image: Tyler Olsen/ iStock

Can an hour of brisk walking counteract the downsides of sitting for most of the day? Maybe, according to a study published online July 27, 2016, by The Lancet.

Earlier research has linked physical inactivity and excessive sitting to a higher risk of heart disease and early death. The new study analyzed data from 13 studies involving more than one million adults, mostly ages 45 and older.

Researchers found that in terms of death rates, sitting more than eight hours daily and exercising very little (about five minutes a day) was as risky as smoking or being obese. But 60 to 75 minutes of moderate-intensity activity—such as brisk walking or cycling—per day seemed to eliminate the increased risk of death in people who sat for more than eight hours a day.

Studies like these that follow people over time can't prove cause and effect, since it's not possible to account for the many factors that affect a person's risk of dying. But the findings are a good reminder to avoid sitting too much and to be as active as possible.