The Activity-Health Equation – How Much is Enough?

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For many years, the guidance of 30 minutes of daily activity is a prescription for good health. As more extensive data sets emerge, it is now possible to use sensor-based data to examine mortality trends to mine for new insights on how much activity is enough.

A new paper by Ulf Ekelund and colleagues from the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences examines the associations between activity, sedentary behavior, and all-cause mortality. The article appears in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

The paper leveraged data from nine prospective cohorts to perform a meta-analysis, a study of studies; the sample size consisted of 44,000 middle-aged to older participants. The studies followed participants for 4 to 14.5 years to determine the outcomes, and over this period, the mortality rate was 7.8%. The authors examined the relationship between different physical activity levels, namely those who engaged in Moderate to Vigorous Physical Activity (MVPA) levels compared to amounts of sedentary time.

Findings suggest that participants spent, on average. 8.5-10.5 hours a day being sedentary and a range of 8-35 minutes a day engaged in MVPA. Those who had low levels of MVPA and high amounts of sedentary behavior had the highest risk of death. Overall, those in the lowest third of MVPA had the most significant risk of death.

The authors conclude that 30-40 minutes a day of MVPA can lessen the increased mortality rate associated with being sedentary, especially for those who spend more than 10 hours being inactive due to their jobs. The adage of “move it or lose it” seems factual based on the current science!

Being able to consistently reach the upper limits of 150-300 active minutes per week is also the right prescription for longevity. As we see, larger data sets from sensor data are made available, it will be possible to refine the activity recommendations for different populations.

Thanks for reading – Trina
(Opinions are my own)

Ekelund U, Tarp J, Fagerland MW, et al
Joint associations of accelero-meter measured physical activity and sedentary time with all-cause mortality: a harmonised meta-analysis in more than 44 000 middle-aged and older individuals
British Journal of Sports Medicine 2020;54:1499-1506.

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