Research Study: Counter the Effects of Sitting with 11 Minutes of Exercise a Day?

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A new research study[1] shows that a mere 11 minutes a day of exercise could decrease the unwanted health consequences of sitting for several hours.

Low levels of physical activity and high amounts of sedentary time are associated with higher morbidity and mortality risks. In contrast, other large-scale meta-analyses and cohort studies examining the joint associations between physical activity and sedentary behaviors suggest that high levels of physical activity attenuate or even eliminate the associations between sitting time all-cause and cardiovascular disease mortality.

Can we couter the effect of sitting with exercise?  Yes
Sitting all day? Be sure to get some vigorous physical activity in the day to counter the effects.

What was the Goal of the Research Study?

Some older studies in 2016 suggested that if you do about 30 minutes of exercise most days but sit for eight hours at work a day, it is still not enough to undo most health risks. Participants in that research were asked to remember the times they had moved or sat, which was tricky as we tend to be unreliable narrators of our lives. This led to inaccurate results and data.

In the new study though, which was published last week in a special issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine devoted to the World Health Organization’s updated physical activity guidelines and related research, many of the authors of the 2016 review decided to, in effect, repeat that earlier research and analysis, but, this time, use data from people who had worn activity monitors (accelerometers) objectively track how much they moved and sat.

Exercising on an assaultbike
A stationary air bike like the Assault AirBike can be a great way to get in an intense, but convenient workout at home or in the gym.

What were the Research Methods of the Study?

The scientists gathered results from nine recent studies in which almost 50,000 men and women wore accelerometers. These volunteers were middle-aged or older and lived in Europe or the United States. Dividing people into thirds, based on how much they moved and sat, the researchers found that being extremely inactive was risky, with people in the top third for sitting and bottom third for activity having about 260 percent more likelihood of premature death than the men and women who moved the most and sat the least. The study, which relied on objective data from tens of thousands of people about how they spent their days, found that those who were the most inactive faced a high risk of dying young, but if people got up and moved, they slashed that threat substantially, even if they did not move much.

Results and Conclusions

The results strongly suggest that if we sit all day, we should also aspire to get up and move, says Ulf Ekelund, a professor of epidemiology and physical activity at the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences in Oslo, Norway, who led the new study. “Brisk walking is excellent moderate exercise,” he says. 11 minutes of exercise a day may help counter the effects of sitting, and about 35 minutes of brisk walking or other moderate activities is the sweet spot for longevity.

Exercise for longevity
Exercise – is it the answer for those that seek longevity? This study seems to indicate so.

Recommendations for Fitness Trainees Based on the Research

Moderate-to-vigorous-intensity physical activity and sedentary time as measured by an accelerometer can be combined differently to reduce premature death risk.

No matter how many hours someone sat, this research seemed to show that 35 minutes is the amount that can lead to the greatest statistical improvement in life span.

The takeaway? Try and get 35 minutes of vigorous activity every day.


1. “Joint associations of accelero-meter measured physical activity and sedentary time with all-cause mortality: a harmonized meta-analysis in more than 44 000 middle-aged and older individuals”

2. “11 Minutes of Exercise a Day May Help Counter the Effects of Sitting”