In a rare bit of good news about physical exercise, a new study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that people need far less exercise than previously expected in order to counteract the deleterious effects of sitting all day, per The New York Times.
But how much exercise? Apparently, the new study, which used data from 50,000 men and women who wore exercise monitors, found that briskly walking for at least 11 minutes a day could actually reverse some of the most harmful consequences of sitting for hours a day. The study found that extremely sedentary people — i.e. those who did not walk for at least 11 minutes a day — were at a high risk of dying young, but just moving a tiny amount could lower the risk of early death substantially.
And while 11 minutes is a great number to hear — parents of young kids get much more exercise than that by virtue of simply running after their kids at the park — there’s actually a sweet spot of daily exercise that, according to the researcher’s data, led to the greatest growth in life span.
That sweet spot? 35 minutes a day of brisk walking or other moderate activities. That’s walking the dog in the morning, or going on an afternoon stroll, or even some deliberate exercise like a low-impact cardio video. And while 35 minutes a day might not be achievable for everyone, 11 minutes a day almost certainly is, meaning that just a small amount of movement can have serious health benefits.
This is great news for people who don’t want to run sprints for 30 minutes a day or go to the gym and lift weights for 60 minutes and have high-intensity exercises. Movement helps, even the smallest amount of it.
These findings contradict a 2016 study that had results that were honestly just daunting. The study, which involved a million people but relied on self-reported data of physical activity, then found that adult men and women needed over an hour of moderate exercise a day in order to counter-effect the harmful results of sitting all day long at a desk or while in school.
Those results, for working parents, for people who clock 60 hour weeks at work at their desk, for caretakers, felt impossible to overcome. But because that study relied on self-reported data, and people tend to egregiously overestimate how much they actually move, the results were skewed, leading the researchers to believe that much more exercise was needed to stay healthy and to lower the risk of early death.
Instead, in a spot of good news, it turns out that folks need a lot less exercise to reap the benefits of movement and lower their risk of early death. So, go on that walk after lunch or dinner. It might help you live longer.