Studies Find Even Minimal Physical Activity Measurably Boosts Health

Studies Find Even Minimal Physical Activity Measurably Boosts Health from Natural Blaze

Two new studies from UC San Diego find that simply standing up or walking around can provide positive health benefits; and Americans sit too much

More than 5 million people around the world die from causes associated with a lack of physical activity. Two research teams at UC San Diego School of Medicine sought to understand sedentary lifestyles, with one study finding that even light physical activity, including just standing, can benefit health, and the other that Americans are still sitting too much.

Stand up, your life may depend on it
It is well-documented that exercise and other moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) reduces the risk of many age-related chronic diseases, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, numerous cancers, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. However, in the study published October 12, 2020 in Journals of Gerontology: Medical Sciences, researchers found that just standing still was associated with lower risk for mortality.

Led by Andrea LaCroix, PhD, chief of epidemiology at UC San Diego School of Medicine, the research team observed activity levels of nearly 6,000 American women, ages 63 to 97, in partnership with the Women’s Health Initiative. Participants wore a research-grade accelerometer for seven days to get accurate measures of how much time they spent sitting, standing still or moving.

Participants who spent the most time standing had a 37 percent lower risk of death when compared to the group who didn’t stand up as often. While the highest group was standing still almost 90 minutes per day, a lower risk of death was observed by standing still for as little as 30 minutes per day. The positive effects of standing were even stronger when participants were standing and moving around at the same time.

“Avoiding prolonged sedentary time and engaging in regular physical activity are key strategies for older Americans to improve their prospects for healthy aging,” said first author Purva Jain, a doctoral candidate and research fellow. “Specifically low-intensity physical activities, such as standing, are important to study due to their feasibility and safety. During our research, we found that simply spending more time on your feet could have important health benefits, such as a decreased risk of mortality.”

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