Sit less, move more and more often – the simplest of ways to benefit to your health

A recent review published in the British Medical Journal has examined the dose-response relationship between physical activity and all-cause mortality. Data extracted from 8 long-term population-based studies involving a total of 36,383 participants conforms to the generally accepted fact that higher physical activity levels are associated with a reduced risk of all-cause mortality. Although this relationship is relatively well studied, much of the previous research has used self-report measures to quantify physical activity. Unfortunately, this type of data is often subject to over-estimation due to recall and social desirability biases, as well as failing to accurately classify activity intensity. For the researchers then, it was a question of utilising an accurate body of scientific evidence to emphasise the importance of engaging in physical activity of all intensities. Therefore, only studies which collected movement data from a validated body-worn accelerometer device were included in the review.

The idea that every movement we make can contribute to improved health and well-being challenges the common misconception that physical activity needs to be of a moderate to vigorous intensity to carry any benefit. Many will be familiar with the guidelines of 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week, but what this does not account for is all of the light intensity activity we accumulate by carrying out everyday tasks such as cooking, cleaning or gardening.

Light intensity activity is any type of movement which causes you to burn over 1.8 times the calories you would burn at rest. Generally speaking, any moment in which we are not sitting or lying down, and instead moving any part of our body should exceed this threshold. This can otherwise be referred to as non-sedentary time. The researchers found that being sedentary for over 9.5-hrs per day, which equates to roughly 60% of a 16-hr waking day, was linked with an increased risk of premature death. At KiActiv® we are pleased to see the evidence base for wearable physical activity monitors continue to strengthen, particularly as we also encourage individuals to strive for that 40% non-sedentary time per 16-hr waking day in order to feel maximum benefit for their health.

Of course, moderate to vigorous physical activity carries great health benefits, but it is important we look beyond that to get an accurate picture of an individual’s true physical activity level. Measuring physical activity across multiple dimensions rather than viewing it as exercising vs. not exercising represents a great way of capturing every movement. Recognising that individuals may be limited in their capacity to participate in structured exercise helps us understand the importance of improving in other dimensions such as non-sedentary time. It is then simply a case of improving the understanding that any movement is good movement and the more we move throughout the day, the more we will benefit our health!