LONDON — If you spend all day sitting, then you might want to schedule some time for a brisk walk — just make sure you can spare at least an hour.
Scientists analyzing data from more than 1 million people found that it takes about 60 to 75 minutes of "moderate intensity" exercise to undo the damage of sitting for at least eight hours a day. Not exercising and sitting all day is as dangerous as being obese or smoking, they found.
And the added risk of parking yourself in front of a television for 5 hours or more a day after sitting at the office is so high even the hour of exercise is not enough to reverse the ill effects of sitting.
It has long been suspected that sitting a lot, at work or at home, is not healthy, because it can weaken the heart, arteries, bones and muscles. Being sedentary is known to be a risk factor for problems including diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Among other benefits, physical activity helps prevent insulin resistance, keeps the brain active and strengthens the heart, muscles and bones.
In the new research, experts combed through 13 papers with data on factors including how long people spend sitting, their physical activity levels and their television-watching habits. The majority of studies included people older than age 45. All except one were done in the United States, Western Europe and Australia.
Researchers found that people with the highest levels of moderate physical activity — 60 to 75 minutes daily— erased the higher risk of death linked to being seated for more than eight hours a day. But even that exercise regime was not enough to counter the hazards of also watching more than five hours of television a day.
The paper was published online Wednesday in the journal Lancet.