This text was written by a TecMundo columnist; find out more at the end.
Today we live practically all day sitting. We can get almost everything we need by simply moving our thumbs and ordering via apps on our smartphones. Despite the comfort, there are serious consequences of this. The main one is increasing the risk of death. The question that arises is: Is there a way to reduce or eliminate this risk?
Maybe you think there isn’t much to do, given that the environment encourages us to sit more. I partially agree, as we probably won’t be able to brake technological advances that make us increasingly stand still, or rather, sit. As I write this column, machines are working for me in my house: a robot sweeps and vacuums the floor, the machine washes the clothes, another washes the dishes and so on.
The transformations are not new, despite the sudden acceleration in the process being recent. First, we notice the Agricultural Revolution, marked by the transition from the nomadic hunter-gatherer lifestyle to a sedentary one (in the sense of remaining in the same place) that grows its food, planting and harvesting. Then, the Industrial Revolution, with the use of machines instead of human labor. But according to researcher Daniel Lieberman, today Evolution
Cultural is the most notable force of change on the planet, radically impacting our bodies.
An association is clear from scientific findings over the last few decades: between sedentary behavior and mortality. Sedentary behavior corresponds to the time we spend sitting, with low energy expenditure. Sitting longer during the day implies a greater risk of death.
Cycling to work, in addition to being a physical activity, also contributes to the environment. Source: Getty Images
However, something is not yet clear: whether physical activity changes this relationship, which could be a factor that mitigates or eliminates the risks of sitting for a long time per day. New evidence shows us a way.
22 minutes of physical activity per day
A scientific publication a week ago gained repercussion on the main news sites: a study analyzing almost 12 thousand people over 50 years old, between 2003 and 2016, from the United States, Norway and Sweden, who used devices to check their physical movement during 10 hours a day, for at least four days. They wanted to know if physical activity would be an antidote to the evils of sitting for too long.
And it was. In people who met the physical activity recommendation, time spent in sedentary behavior was not associated with mortality. Those who sat for more than 12 hours a day had a 38% higher risk of mortality, but this was only for those who were unable to fulfill the minimum necessary physical activity.
What is the minimum? Two and a half hours a week. What gives around 22 minutes a day of physical activity. We are talking here about physical activity and not necessarily exercise, which would be going to a gym to do weight training, for example:
- Physical activities are carried out in different contexts: when you clean the house;
- Travel by bicycle to work;
- Climbs stairs and walks short distances during the day.
Small household chores like sweeping the house, for example, help us move our bodies during the day.Source: Getty Images
In the study, the dose of physical activity was important, with more being better and even little was associated with a lower risk of early death. More physical activity implied a lower risk: just 10 minutes more of physical activity per day was associated with a 15% lower risk of mortality in those who were less sedentary (who sat for less than 10 hours a day), and 35% lower in those who sat more than 10 hours a day sitting.
In addition to the dose, the intensity of physical activity was also determining, as only those who were highly sedentary benefited from light activities. So for those who sit for a long time a day, any movement counts.
Tips for increasing your physical activity include generating opportunities to move more during your day, such as walking meetings or the simple action of drinking plenty of water while sitting, the demand of constantly having to go to the bathroom will make you get up and take a few steps, breaking time into sedentary behavior. The fact is that we can obtain even more benefits through physical exercise, especially for mental health.
One caveat is that knowing these results will probably not directly imply motivation to move more through exercise, which is a specific and organized form of physical activity. Knowing that it is good for your health is not a strong enough reason to exercise, unless you are sick.
What matters most are the experiences we have with exercise. If positive, they have the potential to keep us engaged with training, with pleasure, socialization, interest and fun, thus the health factor will be a consequence. Just 22 minutes a day that can make you live longer and better.
Fábio Dominski He has a PhD in Human Movement Sciences and a degree in Physical Education from the State University of Santa Catarina (UDESC). He is a university professor and researcher at the Sports and Exercise Psychology Laboratory (LAPE / CEFID / UDESC). He is the author of the book Exercising Físico e Ciência-Fatos e Mitos, and presents the program Exercising Físico e Ciência on UDESC Joinville radio (91.9 FM); the program is also available as a podcast on Spotify.