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Just An Hour’s Exercise Could Undo Health Risks Of Sitting

Photography by Sam Nodelman.
If you’re chained to your desk right now like us, you won't want to be reminded that sitting down for too long can kill (sorry!). It’s linked to even more deaths globally each year than smoking – 5.3 million compared with 5.1 million, the BBC reported.

But don't panic, because science brings good news – just an hour of “brisk exercise” each day could offset the risks of early death linked to a desk-bound lifestyle.

The research, published in the Lancet, used data from more than a million people, who were categorised based on how much exercise they did. The scientists then looked at how many died during the follow-up period.

Desk-bound workers who sat for eight hours and did little exercise were most likely to die.

People who sat for eight hours, but were also physically active, were much less at risk of dying than those who were sedentary for less time but weren’t active, the research found.

Sitting and watching TV was found to be even worse than sitting at a desk, possibly because people often do it while mindlessly snacking. Watching TV for more than three hours each day was linked to an increased risk of death, especially for those who didn't exercise.

Current NHS guidelines recommend adults get 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week, but according to the leader of this latest research, this is nowhere near enough.

Professor Ulf Ekelund, of the Norwegian School of Sports Sciences and the University of Cambridge, who led the study, acknowledged that those of us who commute and work in offices have little choice but to sit down for ages.

But he said: "For these people in particular, we cannot stress enough the importance of getting exercise, whether it's getting out for a walk at lunchtime, going for a run in the morning or cycling to work,” the BBC reported.

"An hour of physical activity per day is the ideal, but if this is unmanageable, then at least doing some exercise each day can help reduce the risk."

An hour of daily moderate exercise is far higher than the current recommendation, he admitted.

The rise in sales of fitness trackers, which track your steps and vibrate when you’ve been sitting for too long, and office equipment that allow workers to be more active, such as standing and treadmill desks, shows we’re increasingly aware of the dangers of sitting down all day.

But if you've been burying your head in the sand so far, maybe this latest research will be a little incentive to take some time away from your desk today. Desk lunches are sad enough as it is.