Just 22 Minutes of Walking Can Offset Health Risks of All-Day Sitting

2 min read

Oct. 25, 2023 – To combat the health risks of sitting at a desk all day or indulging in an all-day Netflix binge, head out for a brisk 22-minute walk. 

New research shows that people who do at least 22 minutes of physical activity each day reduce their risk of early death. The findings were published Tuesday in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Most people in Western countries spend between 9  and 10 hours being sedentary when they're not sleeping, most of which occurs during a person’s workday, the researchers noted. Sedentary time is linked to early death, while it is well-established that physical activity has wide-ranging health benefits. This latest study sought to examine just how much sedentary time it takes to trigger the risk of early death, and just how much physical activity it takes to reduce that risk. The researchers examined physical activity level that is, at a minimum, equal to a brisk walk or gardening.

For the analysis, the researchers in Norway combined data from four previous studies of 12,000 people who were age 50 or older who wore hip-mounted fitness trackers to measure their active and sedentary time. Data was excluded from midnight to 6 a.m., when people are usually sleeping.

The analysis showed that having more than 12 daily sedentary hours was linked to a 38% higher risk of early death only among people who had less than 22 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity. 

There was no cutoff for the amount of sedentary time that triggers health risks, but any increase in moderate physical activity translated to a reduced risk of early death. The study also showed that increasing physical activity was more protective than reducing sedentary time.

The results are similar to the CDC’s physical activity recommendation for adults, which advises 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic activity like walking. Divided among 7 days, 150 minutes in a week equals just over 21 minutes daily. The CDC also says adults should do muscle strengthening activities at least two times per week for the major muscle groups, which are the legs, hips, back, belly, chest, shoulders, and arms.