Sit at a Desk All Day? Here’s How Much Exercise You Need, Study Suggests

A new study finds that you might actually be able to fend off the effects of sitting all day long. Hallelujah! 

As I type this, I am about to spend eight hours, more or less, in my desk chair. Previous studies have suggested that, given my job of choice — one that pretty much requires me to be glued to a computer chair — I should probably just accept the fact that sitting is slowly going to kill me. Yes: Even if I squeeze in a killer sweat session when I finally do get out of my chair.

But wait! There’s hope: As the Washington Post reports, a new study, published in The Lancet, found that us desk jockeys who sit in chairs for eight hours straight might have a chance of fighting death by sitting after all — as long as we squeeze in an hour of physical activity each day. Hallelujah!

Here’s how the researchers came to that conclusion: For the study, lead by Ulf Ekelund of the Norwegian School of Sports Sciences, researchers analyzed the data from 16 previous studies of over 1 million adults from the United States, Western Europe and Australia. The participants from the studies were lumped into four groups depending on their activity levels, with those groups ranging from less than five minutes of physical activity per day to 60 to 75 minutes of physical activity per day.

After looking at how the participants’ in the four groups hours spent sitting affected their health and mortality risk, the study authors found, per the study’s summary, “Daily sitting time was not associated with increased all-cause mortality in those in the most active quartile of physical activity.” In fact, those who sat the least but also landed in the lowest physical activity group had “a significantly increased risk of dying during follow-up” compared to those who spent eight hours of their day sitting but also got at least an hour of exercise in each day, the researchers write. They conclude that, if you spend eight hours sitting, you need at least an hour of exercise each day, and if you spend four hours sitting, you can cut that exercise requirement in half to decrease risk of death by sitting.

And if you think this means you have to head to a 60-minute Flywheel class after work every single day, you (and your wallet) can catch your breath. Ekelund told the Washington Post that evidence suggests that hour of exercise per day can be broken up into chunks, and doesn’t have to be super rigorous. So your 10-minute speed walk to the El so you’re not late for work can count as a chunk. Again, I say: Hallelujah.

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