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Doing a spot of housework ‘can undo damage of being stuck at your desk’, study finds

Doing a spot of housework or taking a half-hour stroll ‘can undo damage of being stuck at your desk’ for up to ten hours, study finds

  • Study showed inactivity of more than ten hours increases chances of death
  • Only 30 to 40 daily minutes of moderate activity substantially lowers risk
  • Some 44,000 people from four countries were studied for up to 14 years
  • Those inactive for ten hours but who did exercise did not have increased risk 

Doing a spot of housework or going for a brisk walk daily can help undo the damage caused by sitting for hours at a desk, new World Health Organisation guidelines say.

The advice on ‘sedentary behaviour’ is increasingly relevant for the millions stuck at home due to Covid restrictions.

It is based on a study showing that inactivity of ten or more hours a day is linked to a significantly heightened risk of death.

But only 30 to 40 daily minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity substantially lowers this risk, the research found.

Some 44,000 people from four countries, who each wore activity trackers, were studied by scientists for between four and 14 years.

Doing just half an hour of housework could significantly lower the risk of death caused by sitting still for ten hours a day (file image)

The advice on ‘sedentary behaviour’ is increasingly relevant for the millions stuck at home due to Covid restrictions. Pictured, shoppers in Reading, Berkshire on November 22

The advice on ‘sedentary behaviour’ is increasingly relevant for the millions stuck at home due to Covid restrictions. Pictured, shoppers in Reading, Berkshire on November 22

Those who spent about ten hours or more a day without moving –and did not get much exercise – were found to have a 263 per cent increased risk of death, compared to those who exercised and were inactive no more than eight hours a day.

But those inactive for ten hours a day – but also did decent daily exercise – did not have a ‘statistically significant’ increased risk of death.

Researchers, led by the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, stressed all physical activity counts. It could be anything from climbing the stairs to a walk around the block – anything that makes someone’s heart rate and breathing speed increase for a sustained period.

Professor Emmanuel Stamatakis, from the University of Sydney, who co-edited a special issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine focused on the subject, said: ‘Although the new guidelines reflect the best available science, there are still some gaps in our knowledge. We are still not clear… where exactly the bar for “too much sitting” is.’

Researchers, led by the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, stressed all physical activity counts. Pedestrians in Covent Garden, London, on November 22

Researchers, led by the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, stressed all physical activity counts. Pedestrians in Covent Garden, London, on November 22

The guidelines say everyone should aim to do 150 to 300 minutes of moderate exercise a week – or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity. They are also advised to undertake some muscle strengthening activity at least twice a week, and reduce sedentary behaviour.

Professor Stamatakis said: ‘These guidelines are timely, given that we are in the middle of a global pandemic which has confined people indoors for long periods.’

Professor Fiona Bull, from the WHO, said: ‘The most recent global estimates show one in four adults and more than three quarters of teenagers don’t meet the recommendations for aerobic exercise.

‘So there’s an urgent need for governments to prioritise and invest in national initiatives and health and community services that promote physical activity.’ 

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