It’s no secret: we live in a sedentary society. According to the Ministry of Health for 2020, 36.4% of the Spanish population over 15 years of age admit that they do not exercise or spend their free time sitting. The latest Eurobarometer for Sport and Physical Activity 2022 increases this figure to 47%. These leisure time data come on top of increasingly sedentary jobs, in which much of the population spends seven to ten hours of their days sitting in front of a computer screen. The Spanish Society Against Obesity (SEEDO) has estimated that sedentary behavior increases public health costs by 26% and estimates the impact of these developmental sedentary lifestyle indicators at approximately 1.560 million euros per year. Countless diseases have plagued the Spanish health care system.
A recent study published in British Journal of Sports Medicine Based on data from nearly 12,000 participants from Norway, Sweden, and the United States over 50 years of age, it was concluded that just 22 minutes a day of moderate exercise (brisk walking, cycling, or intense cleaning tasks) or vigorous exercise (jogging, playing football, tennis or cycling more intensely) can help offset the negative health effects of a sedentary lifestyle and reduce the risk of mortality from any cause.
“Our study shows that a sedentary lifestyle is not associated with a higher risk of mortality among those participants who accumulated at least 20-25 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity,” explains Edward Sagelv, lead author of the study and professor in the departments of Sports Science and health sciences from the Arctic University of Norway, which highlights that the results show that these 22 minutes of activity do not need to be done continuously, but can be broken up into different episodes or bursts. The latter will confirm the results of another study published a year ago in the European Heart Journal, which concluded that short periods of intense exercise lasting just one minute during everyday activities (carrying groceries home from the supermarket, walking at a faster pace) increase efficiency (for example, working or climbing stairs) can have a big impact on the health of people who lead a sedentary lifestyle.
“The results of this study are consistent with long-standing clinical practice recommendations from major cardiology societies, which recommend about 30 minutes of moderate exercise over five days (150 minutes per week): or 15 minutes per day, 5 days per week , more intense exercise,” says Manuel Angita, cardiologist at the Reina Sofía University Hospital in Cordoba and member of the Spanish Society of Cardiology (SEC).
Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death in Spain. In them, although, as the expert admits, it is difficult to indicate, a sedentary lifestyle plays a significant role. “Exercise has two benefits at the cardiovascular level. Direct, through the exercise itself, since it has an anti-inflammatory and anti-fibrotic effect, increases the performance and efficiency of myocardial cells, reduces heart rate, etc.; and another at an indirect level, as exercise leads to improvements in other cardiovascular risk factors. What percentage of cardiovascular disease could be avoided if society became less sedentary? It’s hard to say, but I think it’s a very important percentage, at least a quarter to a third,” he reflects.
César A. Rodríguez, head of the medical oncology service at the University Hospital of Salamanca and for several months president of the Spanish Society of Medical Oncology (SEOM), is of the same opinion. “We’ve already had previous studies showing a positive reduction in cancer mortality due to exercise, but this study adds some points of originality in the design: there are many patients, it measures exercise using wearable devices and, although it is true that the Follow-up is short, Just five years, it shows that the duration of exercise does not have to be very long, but rather of minimal intensity to have an impact on health,” he said, indicating that.
Cancer is the second cause of death in Spain and the first among men. Although it is difficult to determine the impact of exercise on its development and prognosis, it is clear, according to Rodriguez, that bad lifestyle habits (sedentary lifestyle, poor diet, alcohol and tobacco use) are associated with about a third of cancer cases. lethal outcomes. “We know that intervening with each of these factors individually reduces the risk of death. It is true that not all tumors have the same level of evidence, but in some tumors, such as breast cancer, this association is very well documented,” he adds.
The longer and more intense, the better.
The SEOM President states that these results, while encouraging, may be misread: “22 minutes is the minimum time after which research suggests the effects of a sedentary lifestyle can be offset, but it is best to do as little as possible sedentary lifestyle. The more exercise, the better.”
Thus, Manuel Angita recalls, this was confirmed a few months ago by another investigation published in the magazine European Journal of Preventive Cardiology ,who analyzed the relationship between the daily steps people take and the risk of death. Researchers found that walking 4,000 steps a day (rather than the 10,000 recommended by the WHO) reduced the risk of death from any cause. “4,000 steps, or those 22 minutes, had already shown a benefit in terms of mortality, but for every 1,000 daily steps above that, the risk of mortality decreased by 15%. That is, the more, the better, although the minimum level from which benefits are already received to compensate for a sedentary lifestyle is those same 20 minutes,” he says.
This relationship was also seen in a study conducted by Edward Sagelw, in which the effect of longer periods of moderate-to-vigorous exercise on reducing mortality risk was greater than the effect achieved with shorter periods of sedentary activity. In fact, the researcher notes, higher levels of physical activity in the study were associated with a lower risk of mortality, regardless of sedentary time. The same goes for the intensity of physical activity. The Norwegian professor notes that although the study did not include many citizens engaged in vigorous activity, other recent studies show that higher intensity exercise has a greater effect on health.
“The more intense the activity, the better; and the more minutes the better. However, it is worth remembering that moderate intensity and a limited time of 20 minutes also provide great health benefits,” emphasizes Sagelv, who believes that authorities should create “positive incentives” to encourage people to be physically active in the morning. life, such as providing safe places to walk, safe bike paths and access to green spaces such as parks. “All of these public health measures have proven to be effective in increasing physical activity levels in populations,” he recommends.
Cesar A. Rodriguez, for his part, believes that these results can also motivate and encourage exercise among both those people who complain of lack of time and among those who lead a sedentary lifestyle because they do not like to do physical activities. exercises. “If for some reason you cannot find time for regular physical activity, if you live in a third-floor apartment and have to go up to the house four times, do it by going up the stairs; or if you need to walk to a place that is 20 minutes away, don’t walk, walk at a good pace. We must take advantage of these circumstances of daily life to turn them into physical exercise,” he concludes.
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