Study Shows 30 Minutes of Exercise May Not be Enough

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A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine revealed that there are multiple ways to achieve the same health benefits from exercise, as long as the exercise "cocktail" includes plenty of light physical activity.

Previous studies have only addressed the impact of one type of activity or another, in isolation. But each activity has either harmful or beneficial effects on health. "What we don't know is the best combination, or cocktail, of ingredients needed to prolong life," said Keith Diaz, PhD, assistant professor of behavioral medicine and director of the exercise testing laboratory at the Center for Behavioral Cardiovascular Health at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons.

For this study, the researchers analyzed data was from six studies that included more than 130,000 adults in the UK, US and Sweden.

To complete the study, researchers used a technique called compositional analysis to determine how different combinations of activities moderate/vigorous physical activity, light physical activity and sedentary behavior affect mortality. They found that although the current recommendation of 30 minutes per day of moderate/vigorous physical activity reduced the odds of an earlier death by up to 80% for some, it did not reduce mortality risk for individuals who were very sedentary (over 11 to 12 hours per day).

"In other words, it is not as simple as checking off that 'exercise' box on your to-do list," says Diaz. "A healthy movement profile requires more than 30 minutes of daily exercise. Moving around and not remaining sedentary all day also matters."

Using this basic formula, the study found that multiple combinations of activities reduced the risk of early death by 30%:

  • 55 minutes of exercise, 4 hours of light physical activity, and 11 hours of sitting
  • 13 minutes of exercise, 5.5 hours of light physical activity, and 10.3 hours of sitting
  • 3 minutes of exercise, 6 hours of light physical activity, and 9.7 hours of sitting
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