Desk-bound workers need an hour of activity a day to balance harmful effects: Study

An hour of physical activity a day could eliminate the risk of dying for those who spend eight hours or more a day sitting at their desks.
An hour of physical activity a day could eliminate the risk of dying for those who spend eight hours or more a day sitting at their desks. PHOTO: AFP

Office workers who spend up to eight hours or more sitting at their desk may need to balance the harmful effects of their sedentary lifestyles by devoting at least an hour to physical activity.

With the benefit of that precious hour, a new study published on Wednesday (July 27) in UK medical journal the Lancet said the increased risk in death associated with sitting for too long could be eliminated, the Guardian reported.

The study, conducted by a team of international experts, analysed data from 16 previous studies. These involved people aged over 45 from the United States, western Europe and Australia.

It was discovered that there was a 9.9 per cent chance of dying - during a follow-up period of two to 18 years - for those who sat for eight or more hours a day and engaged in low activity, versus a 6.8 per cent chance for those who sat less than four hours a day and were active for at least an hour.

According to the study, a World Health Organisation guideline which recommends 150 minutes of exercise a week was not enough for most people.

Its lead author, Professor Ulf Ekelund from the Norwegian School of Sports Sciences and Cambridge University, told the Guardian: "You don't need to do sport, you don't need to go to the gym.

"It's okay doing some brisk walking, maybe in the morning, during lunchtime, after dinner in the evening. You can split it up over the day, but you need to do at least one hour."

The authors gave some examples of one hour of "moderate intensity" exercise that could be beneficial, such as walking at 5.6kmh or cycling for leisure at 16kmh.

Prof Ekelund noted that work pressures - in Britain's context - meant that lengthy breaks were not realistic for some workers, but said even five-minute breaks every hour helped.