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Exceeding weekly exercise recommendations can help offset risks of a sedentary lifestyle, study finds

​Researchers encourage consumers to stay as active as possible

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Many consumers struggle to stay physically active and instead lean towards a more sedentary lifestyle. While recent studies have highlighted the health risks associated with extended periods of sitting down, a new study has explored how much physical activity is necessary to cancel out the risks associated with being sedentary. 

According to new guidelines released by the World Health Organization (WHO), consumers who spend a great deal of time sitting should strive to exceed weekly global physical activity recommendations as a means of both eliminating health risks of a sedentary lifestyle and reaping the benefits of exercise. 

“These guidelines are very timely, given that we are in the middle of a global pandemic, which has confined people indoors for long periods and encouraged an increase in sedentary behavior,” said researcher Emmanuel Stamatakis. “But people can still protect their health and offset the harmful effects of physical inactivity. As these guidelines emphasize, all physical activity counts and any amount is better than none.” 

The importance of staying active

For the study, the researchers had 44,000 people from four different countries wear activity trackers. They analyzed their time spent sitting versus their time spent engaging in physical activity and evaluated their overall health outcomes. 

Ultimately, sitting for 10 or more hours each day was associated with increased health risks and premature death. However, in order to offset those risks, the researchers encourage consumers to surpass weekly exercise recommendations. 

The World Health Organization typically recommends that adults engage in 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week, or 75-150 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity each week. While this may seem like a daunting task -- especially for those who physically struggle to complete exercise -- the researchers encourage consumers to start wherever they are. 

The researchers hope that the biggest takeaway from this study is that consumers start swapping time spent sitting down with time spent being active in whatever way is right for them. Doing things around the house, like climbing stairs or cleaning, can be a great starting point. As consumers build endurance and greater physical capacity, they can incorporate more intense activities into their routines. 

As consumers of all ages fail to meet weekly exercise recommendations, the researchers hope that these findings show just how important it is both for consumers and government officials to prioritize healthy habits. 

“The most recent global estimates show that one in four (27.5 percent) adults and more than three quarters (81 percent) of teenagers don’t meet the recommendations for aerobic exercise, as outlined in the 2010 Global Recommendations,” said researcher Fiona Bull. “So there’s an urgent need for governments to prioritize and invest in national initiatives and health and community services that promote physical activity.” 

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