By now, we all know what awaits anyone adhering to a sedentary lifestyle. Sitting for long periods of time can increase our risk for obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and premature death. So when are we all going to accept that the human body was not designed to sit for too long? A recent study published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (CJASN) has found that casually walking for two minutes per hour, instead of sitting, can significantly lower a person’s risk for premature death.

"We hoped to understand whether lower duration of sedentary activities with higher duration of low- or light-intensity activities is associated with survival benefit," Dr. Srinivasan Beddhu, lead researcher from the University of Utah, said in a statement. "Sitting for a long time strongly increases the risk of death. Our findings suggest that replacing sedentary duration with an increase in light activity might confer a survival benefit."

Beddhu and his colleagues examined the benefits of low-intensity activities, such as standing, and light-activities, such as casual walking, among healthy people and patients with chronic kidney disease, using data on 3,626 participants from the 2003-2004 National Health & Nutrition Examination Survey. On average, follow-up for each participant lasted around three years.

Although a “trade-off” of sedentary activity with low-intensity activities had no effect on a participant’s health status, a trade-off of two minutes for every hour of sedentary activity with light-intensity activity lowered a healthy adult's risk for death by 33 percent and chronic kidney disease patients' by 41 percent. Healthy adults spent over half of their time in sedentary activities, while chronic kidney disease patients spent more than two-thirds of their time sitting down.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Physical Activity Guidelines, adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderately intense physical activity per week or 75 minutes of vigorously intense physical activity. If a person is awake for 16 hours out of the day, then achieving that much physical activity would account for around two percent of the time they spend awake. Forty-eight percent of adults do not meet these recommendations.

Source: Wei G, Marcus R, Chonchol M, Greene T, Beedhu S. Light Intensity Physical Activities and Mortality in the US General Population and CKD Subpopulation. Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (CJASN). 2015.