It has recently been said that sitting is as bad for your health as smoking. It is not.
One estimate is that those with the longest duration of sitting have excess annual
mortality of 190 per 100,000 people compared to those who sit the least. The
heaviest smokers can have an annual risk difference of 2,000 per 100,000 compared
to never smokers— a ten times greater absolute risk than that for the most sedentary
A study of middle-aged and older Australians found that compared with those who
reported no moderate to vigorous physical activity, those reporting 10 to 149, 150 to
299, and 300 or more minutes/week of moderate to vigorous physical activity had
adjusted hazard ratios for all-cause mortality of 0.66, 0.53, and 0.46, respectively.
Other studies have shown greater reductions in the mortality rate from vigorous-intensity
activities than from moderate activities. A study among people age 40 and
older found that the total duration of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity was associated
with reduced mortality risk. It did not matter if the physical activity was
in bouts of five minutes, 10 minutes or of any duration. Daily totals of more than 40
minutes were associated with a reduction in the death rate of more than 50%. The
2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee Scientific Report concluded
that strong evidence demonstrates that decreased cardiovascular disease mortality
and decreased all-cause mortality is proportional to the amount of physical activity.
This is a dose-response relationship.
One obvious question is, does starting to exercise later in life after being mostly
sedentary reduce mortality? The answer is, yes. The NIH-AARP Diet and Health
Study, with 315,000 participants, found that over about 13 years, those who reported
engaging in moderate to vigorous physical activity since their teens or 20s had
about a one-third lower risk of death—mostly from lower rates of CVD but also
from less cancer. Additional good news is that the study found that those who
became physically active between the ages of 40 and 61 also had a 35% lower mortality
rate. This study provides evidence that it is never too late to start exercising.
Yet another finding of the study was that those who were physically active as teens
or young adults, and then became sedentary in middle age, lost the longevity benefits
of exercise. It may never be too late to start, but you have to keep at it to retain
This blog presents opinions and ideas and is intended to provide helpful general information. I am not engaged in rendering advice or services to the individual reader. The ideas, procedures and suggestions in that are presented are not in any way a substitute for the advice and care of the reader’s own physician or other medical professional based on the reader’s own individual conditions, symptoms or concerns. If the reader needs personal medical, health, dietary, exercise or other assistance or advice the reader should consult a physician and/or other qualified health professionals. The author specifically disclaims all responsibility for any injury, damage or loss that the reader may incur as a direct or indirect consequence of following any directions or suggestions given in this blog or participating in any programs described in this blog or in the book, The Building Blocks of Health––How to Optimize Your Health with a Lifestyle Checklist (available in print or downloaded at Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble and elsewhere). Copyright 2021 by J. Joseph Speidel.