Physical activity prevents sedentary death – WHO

New data on physical activity and sedentary lifestyles

The same journal published a new study that showsthat adults who sit for hours every day can cope with the risks of immobile life by increasing their level of physical activity. More than 44 thousand people from four countries took part in it. They wore physical activity trackers and were monitored for 4 to 14 years.

The work confirmed that a sedentary lifestyle is associated with an increased risk of death. This risk was greatest in people who were physically inactive. In people with a sedentary lifestyle who devoted 30-40 minutes a day to moderate or vigorous exercise, the likelihood of death decreased: it approached the indicators of those who have a more mobile lifestyle. Scientists believe these data support the validity of the new WHO recommendations.

New WHO recommendations

WHO experts argue that following the norms of physical activity can counter the harmful effects of a sedentary lifestyle, in the first place – the increased risk of death that is associated with it. In preparing new recommendations, they analyzed data from many studies.

The new guidelines do not indicate how much to reduce the amount of sedentary time during the day: there is not enough scientific evidence for this. This time should be limited as much as possible and replaced with physical activity of any intensity.

According to the new recommendations, any load is taken into account. This can be both sports activity (running, exercise, cycling, games), and its more mundane activities, including climbing stairs, walking, working in the garden and around the house. In total, for healthy adults, its weekly level should be 150-300 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75-150 minutes of intense exercise. This can be called an increase in the norm compared to the latest recommendations for physical activity (150 and 75 minutes were indicated there, respectively). It is advisable to alternate aerobic exercises with strength exercises (they must be done at least twice a week).

The authors of the recommendations emphasize that “physical activity of any duration is associated with improved health, including mortality from all causes.” Those who are unable to maintain the activity of the recommended intensity can increase it gradually.

Recommendations for specific groups

WHO makes recommendations for selected groups. So people over the age of 65 should do exercises that improve balance and strengthen muscles, at least three times a week. This will help maintain independence and help prevent falls. During pregnancy and after childbirth, women are encouraged to exercise regularly. In addition to aerobic and strength training, gentle stretching exercises can be helpful.

Physical activity and COVID-19

“These recommendations were prepared in a timely manner, given the pandemic that keeps people at home for a long time and can exacerbate sedentary lifestyles,” said Professor Emmanuel Stamatakis of the University of Sydney, co-author of the guidelines.

Stamatakis pointed out that in such conditions people can protect their health by physical activity. There are activities that do not require a lot of space and special equipment: dancing, active games with animals and children, online yoga and Pilates classes.



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