Title: Light intensity physical activity antidotes sedentary behavior

Jacob Schor, ND, FABNO


A study published in mid-April is changing the way we think about exercise. Srinivasan Beddhu, from the University of Utah School of Medicine and colleagues analyzed data from 3,626 of the participants in the NHANES cohort whose activity had been tracked with accelerometers to examine whether low intensity exercise impacted long term health . These accelerometers were early versions of today’s ‘fitbits’ and allowed physical activity to be categorized as sedentary, low, light, moderate/vigorous intensity at one-minute intervals based on a person’s physical movements, We already know that spending too much time sitting, engaging in what the scientists call sedentary behavior, is not healthy; it’s a risk factor for obesity , insulin resistance , diabetes and increased mortality .  A clinical trial in 2013 reported that engaging in moderate physical did not seem to protect overweight or obese type 2 diabetics from cardiovascular events .  Beddhu’s team instead examined if light activity might have benefit..



Two minutes of light activity made a big difference:

The study participants spent an average of about 35 minutes per every waking hour sitting.  If they traded off two minutes of sitting for two minutes engaged in some light activity, like casual walking, housecleaning or gardening, their risk of mortality dropped by a third.   No significant changes in risk of dying were seen for lower intensity activities such as sitting in class, studying, note taking or standing.  Nor did moderate or vigorous activities such as brisk walking or running, or lifting heavy weights offer significant benefit.


Getting up and moving about a few extra minutes each hour of the day may have a greater health payoff than exercising vigorously.  Few people would have guessed this; the assumption up to now is that the more intense our exercise regime, the better it is for us. We were wrong.


Even if it were more effective, trying to get Americans to engage in vigorous physical activity is difficult.  Currently, most Americans do not achieve even the goal of 2.5 hours per week of moderate physical activity .  Instead of embarking in ‘high energy intensity activity’, simply reducing their time spent sitting may prove to be both more achievable and more effective.


A simple goal:

Here’s a simple goal.  Every hour get up and spend two more minutes more engaged in light activity per hour rather than sitting.  I suspect someone in our household will think those two minutes might be well spent doing housework.





Beddhu S, Wei G, Marcus RL, Chonchol M, Greene T. Light-Intensity Physical Activities and Mortality in the United States General Population and CKD Subpopulation. Clin J Am Soc Nephrol. 2015 Apr 30. pii: CJN.08410814.


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