Many of us know that the American Heart Association recommends doing 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week; that’s 30 minutes per day of moderate activity for five out of the seven days, or 25 minutes per day of vigorous activity for three out of the seven days. It sounds like a reasonable way to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, but 80% of Americans fail to meet this recommendation.
In fact, most Americans have what is considered a sedentary lifestyle; they spend most of their time sitting, and they walk fewer than 5,000 steps per day. Research has shown that long periods of sitting, even for those who also exercise frequently, can have serious negative health impacts, including type 2 diabetes, cancer, dementia, heart disease, and a higher risk of dying.
Now, a new study is showing that even tiny increments of light activity can impact overall health and longevity. Following data on 3,243 participants for three years, researchers found that just two minutes per hour of light-intensity activity such as walking made a significant difference in the participants’ health, including a 33% lower risk of death. Talk about a low investment for a high gain!
Of course, just walking for two minutes several times a day isn’t enough to truly get fit or lose weight. However, it’s a step (pun intended) in the right direction. Although 30 minutes five times a week is a good goal, it may just not be feasible for some people. But that doesn’t mean they should just give up; as this study shows, even a small amount of light exercise can be beneficial. And even if you’re exercising regularly before or after your sedentary job, this study shows that getting up to walk every hour is still important for overall health; it could even double weekly energy use. So get up out of that chair and walk!