One Hour of Physical Activity May Offset Effects of Prolonged Sitting | Physical Activity Series Looks at Global Progress and Challenges

Just one hour of physical activity per day may help offset the harmful effects of eight hours of sitting, according to findings from a study of over 1 million individuals published July 27 as part of a four-part physical activity series in The Lancet.

The study, by Ulf Ekelund, PhD, et al., was a meta-analysis of 16 studies, and found that “the magnitude of increased risk with increased sitting time is mitigated in physically active people.” Patients who were most active (reporting 60-75 minutes per day of moderate-intensity physical activity) appear to have no increased risk of mortality despite sitting more than eight hours per day.

In order to assess the global economic burden of physical inactivity, a separate study in the series found that the costs associated with coronary heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, and colon cancer worldwide was equivalent to $67.5 billion in 2013. While the majority of these costs are borne by high-income countries, lead author Melody Ding, MD, of the University of Sydney notes that as lower-income countries develop, the economic burden of inactivity will affect them as well. “Our study makes the economic case for a global response to promote physical activity to tackle diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and some cancers, with the aim of reducing health inequalities,” she explains.

Another study in the series looked at the effectiveness of programs and campaigns that encourage physical activity in a number of countries. Since the 2012 Olympics, “more countries have been monitoring progress in physical activity, but evidence of any improvements is scarce,” stated lead author Jim Sallis, PhD, of the University of California San Diego. In 2015, over 90 percent of countries studied had a policy in place, and 71 percent reported the policy being operational, but this has had little effect on the physical activity level of citizens.

Increased collaboration and monitoring may increase physical activity, according to a final study in the series by Rodrigo S. Reis, PhD, et al. Successful programs cited included those that put bus stops further apart to encourage walking and school-based campaigns that promote physical activity, nutrition and healthy lifestyle choices.

However, as stated by Pam Das, MD, and Richard Horton, MD, in an editorial comment, in order to make programs like this work, funding them must become a priority. “The United Nation’s goals for non-communicable disease reduction and the World Health Organization targets for physical activity have led to improvements in adoption of national policies. But political commitment and resources are lacking to implement those policies,” they explain. “We hope this Series will encourage policy makers to take physical activity more seriously and for people to take it regularly. We must continue to strive towards the longer term goal: the integration of physical activity into our daily lives,” they add. 

Clinical Topics: Diabetes and Cardiometabolic Disease, Prevention, Sports and Exercise Cardiology, Exercise

Keywords: Breast Neoplasms, Colonic Neoplasms, Cooperative Behavior, Coronary Artery Disease, Developed Countries, Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2, Goals, Income, Life Style, Socioeconomic Factors, Stroke, United Nations, Walking, Secondary Prevention, Sports, Exercise, Athletes


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