Just 22 minutes of daily exercise could be enough to counteract the impact of sedentary behaviour on health, experts have said.

Spending too much time sitting down is one of the leading causes of poor health around the world, with health officials saying that people who spend hours at a computer or watching television are more at risk of an early death.

A new study has found that just 22 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) a day may eliminate this risk.

Moderate exercise includes brisk walking at 4mph or quicker, vigorous cleaning such as mopping the floor, or cycling at a speed of 10-12mph.

Hiking, jogging, playing football, tennis or fast cycling is classed as vigorous activity.

Study author Edvard Sagelv, from the Arctic University of Norway, said: “In our study, we found that only those people doing more than 12 hours per day sitting had a higher risk of death. We are talking about any sitting behaviour – such as being in the office or watching TV for long periods of time.

“In our study, every minute higher MVPA showed a lower risk of death, meaning if people were doing less than 22 minutes (such as 10 minutes) there was still a lower risk of death. However, doing 22 minutes eliminated the higher risk of death from sedentary time.

“This means that if doing 22 minutes or more per day, there was no excess risk from sedentary time. And, if doing more than 22 minutes per day, there was a lower risk of death overall. Basically, the more the better.”

Researchers analysed data from almost 12,000 adults aged 50 and over from America, Norway and Sweden, whose activity was measured through wearable activity trackers.

Out of the study participants, just under 6,000 people spent less than 10.5 hours sitting down each day. Just over 6,000 people spent longer than this sitting down all day.

During a five-year period, 805 of the participants died.

The study authors say: “Efforts to promote physical activity may have substantial health benefits for individuals and small amounts of MVPA may be an effective strategy to ameliorate mortality risk associated with high sedentary time.”

Senior cardiac nurse Regina Giblin, from the British Heart Foundation, said: “This research supports previous findings that show the negative effects of long periods sitting down and the positive impact of exercise.

“There are some simple tips that can help to spend less time sitting down. Walking away from your computer screen at regular intervals, going for a walk or cooking a healthy meal from scratch are ways to incorporate active time into your day.

“Being active can help you control your weight, reduce your blood pressure and improve your mental health.”

The UK chief medical officer recommends 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity each week.

Read the study in full in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

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