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New research suggests even 22-minute runs can help you live longer

A new study shows how even a small amount of physical activity can counteract the effects of a sedentary lifestyle

sedentary lifestyle

Running for less than 30 minutes a day may not be enough to help you qualify for Boston (depending on variuos factors), but that certainly doesn’t mean it’s not beneficial to your health. Recent research suggests engaging in just 22 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity (such as easy running) can help counterbalance the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle. 

The dangers of prolonged sitting

Many of us spend a large portion of our day sitting, whether that’s in front of our computers at work, driving in our cars or unwinding on the couch at the end of the day. There’s no doubt that over time, we’ve become much more sedentary as a society, and this very inactive lifestyle is having a significant impact on our health.

young woman running stairs

According to the study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, spending more than 12 hours a day sitting can increase the risk of early death by 38 per cent for people aged 50 and over. Not surprisingly, reducing the number of hours you sit will improve your health and lower your risk of death, but for individuals who commute to their desk jobs, a certain amount of sitting is unavoidable.

The good news is, the researchers determined that even for those who sit for long periods throughout the day, just 22 minutes of exercise can dramatically reduce the risk of early death.

The study

To perform the study, researchers tracked nearly 12,000 people wearing movement detection devices for 10 hours per day. Half the participants were women and half were men, and came from Norway, Sweden and the U.S. 

overhead stretch office worker

Researchers followed up with the participants for at least two years or longer (the median was around five years), and their data was linked to national health registries. Out of the 12,000 participants, 805 died during the follow-up, and the researchers found that individuals who were sedentary for more than 12 hours a day had a 38 per cent higher risk of death than people who sat for only eight hours a day.

The good news is, participants who did at least 22 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity each day didn’t have an increased risk of death, even among those who were sedentary for 12 hours each day.

Of course, more than 22 minutes of physical activity each day lowered participants’ risk of death even further. For people who are highly sedentary (sitting for more than 10.5 hours per day), an additional 10 minutes of activity per day lowered their risk of death by up to 35 per cent.

woman running in fog

What does this mean for runners?

As a runner, you likely get more than 22 minutes of physical activity on most days, but this research still makes an important point: even a short run has health benefits. It’s not uncommon for runners to skip their run altogether if they can’t fit their “full run” in, but just because you don’t have time for an hour-long run doesn’t mean a shorter jaunt around the block is a waste of time.

When it comes to counteracting the effects of a sedentary lifestyle, every little bit of activity counts, even if it’s just a short jog on your lunch break. No, it won’t help you reach a new marathon PB, but it could well help you live longer and healthier.

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