For many, adding regular exercise into an already-packed schedule can feel like an overwhelming task. Yet a recent study suggests that just 22 minutes of daily moderate-to-vigorous exercise can lengthen the lives of individuals with otherwise sedentary lifestyles.
The study of more than 12,000 adults aged 50+ from Norway, Sweden and the U.S. found that participants who spent more than 12 hours sitting per day increased their risk of mortality by 38% in comparison to those who sat for 8 hours per day. However, those who engaged in moderate-to-vigorous exercise for 10 minutes a day were able to reduce this risk significantly, while those exercising for 22 minutes or more eliminated it entirely. The study pooled data from four different cohort studies conducted between 2003 and 2019, and was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine on October 24, 2023.
According to the Mayo Clinic, some examples of moderate exercise include brisk walking, biking, swimming, or mowing the lawn. Meanwhile, forms of vigorous exercise can include running, swimming laps, heavy yard work, or aerobic dancing. Weight training for muscle strength is also strongly recommended.
Daily Exercise Counteracts Rise in Sedentary Lifestyles
American adults are working increasingly sedentary jobs, and now spend an average of 9.5 hours sitting per day. While many are aware of the benefits of exercise, meeting the standards recommended by the World Health Organization (150–300 minutes of moderate-intensity, or 75–150 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise per week) can feel impossible.
Despite the widespread use of technology such as Fitbits to measure steps taken, or the availability of gym memberships, many continue to look at physical activity as a chore or a luxury rather than a necessity.
The new study was observational, and did not account for additional variables such as diet, motility or general health. Nevertheless, it suggests that older individuals are not required to carve out an hour or two for the gym in order to reduce their risk of heart disease, cancer or type 2 diabetes. Rather, they can engage in what some researchers call “exercise snacks,” or a five-minute walk taken every half an hour.
In other studies, researchers have noted that light activity such as cleaning or taking the stairs is also beneficial. After all, as many government and health authority guidelines affirm, anything is better than nothing.