Sitting for long hours can lead to various chronic health conditions. Engaging in 20-25 minutes of physical activity every day could offset the death risk caused by a highly sedentary lifestyle, researchers suggest.

On average a person spends around nine to 10 hours every day sitting down, mostly for work. Studies have shown that a highly sedentary lifestyle can elevate the risk of conditions such as dementia, obesity, cardiovascular conditions, diabetes and death.

An increase in daily levels of physical activity, regardless of the time spent sitting each day, can potentially reduce the risk of death, according to a new study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

The findings were made after researchers consolidated data between 2003 and 2019 from four groups of people fitted with activity trackers. The aim was to check if physical activity could change the association between sedentary behavior and death, and to determine the specific levels of physical activity and sitting time that could impact the associated risk.

Around 12,000 people from the age of 50 were included in the study. Among the participants, 5,943 spent less than 10.5 hours sitting down every day, while 6,042 had 10.5 or more hours of sedentary time.

After analyzing the data from the death registry, it was found that 805 people had died in an average of five years. Of them, 357 people spent less than 10.5 hours seated daily, while 448 spent 10.5 hours or more of daily sitting.

"The analysis of the activity tracker data showed that being sedentary for more than 12 hours a day was associated with a 38% heightened risk of death compared with a daily tally of eight hours — but only among those totting up fewer than 22 daily minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity," researchers said in a news release. "More than 22 daily minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity was associated with a lower risk of death. Light intensity physical activity was only associated with a lower risk of death among highly sedentary people."

Spending an extra 10 minutes working out showed a 15% reduction in the risk of death in people who spend less than 10.5 hours in a sedentary state daily. For those spending more than 10.5 hours of sitting, the extra 10 minutes of physical activity lowered the risk by 35%.

Since the findings are based on observational research, a cause-and-effect relationship cannot be established. The study also has certain limitations as it did not consider influential factors such as diet, mobility issues and general health. The activity trackers could not classify the type of activity and intensity of the workout.