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Here's the easiest way to undo the harms of sitting all day


JUN. 1, 2015, 6:30 PM 

Sitting all day is terrible for you. So terrible, recent studies have found, that regular exercise isn't enough to counteract its many harms.

So what's someone with an office job to do?

As it turns out, you may not have to do much. Even a standing desk is likely not required.

Instead, simply make sure you're moving for at least a couple of minutes every hour.

Walking is best, but just getting up to stand and stretch is better than staying put, at least according to two new studies. If you work the standard 9-to-5 schedule, one study suggests that all it takes is a total of roughly 16 minutes of extra movement (in addition, of course, to the walking you already do) each day.

Not so bad, right?

For the first study, researchers looked at data on 3,626 US adults who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and had agreed to wear health monitors to track their movement throughout the day.

Three years after the survey ended, the researchers checked records to see which participants had died. They used those numbers to figure out what the participants' overall risk of dying prematurely was and whether time spent sitting had played any part in contributing to that risk. They also looked at what people did with their time when they weren't seated.

They found that standing instead of sitting didn't do much to protect people from dying earlier than they should have (sorry, standing-desk fans). But the occasional light stroll did. In fact, people who ambled around for about two minutes every hour had about a 33% lower risk of dying prematurely than the people who just stayed seated the whole time.

Because the study was observational, meaning the researchers had no control over participants' behavior, they can't say for sure that walking for a couple of minutes each hour actually reduces someone's risk of dying, only that the two things are somehow related. Other variables could also be contributing to what the researchers observed. For example, people who are already healthier to begin with might also be more likely to get up and move around than their less healthy peers.

Another study published Monday recommends spending a total of two hours out of your seat — that includes time spent standing — each day. It also suggests that people should break up time spent sitting with a few minutes of walking or standing.

If you're using public transit, walking to and from lunch or an appointment at least once a day, and adding in those extra 16 minutes of walking (the ones recommended in the first study), meeting this goal shouldn't be too much of a stretch.

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