Published: 24-05-2021 09:14 | Updated: 26-10-2021 11:08

Different combinations of physical activity have similar health benefits

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For decades, scientists have studied the health benefits of exercise – but this research has largely ignored the fact that how you spend the rest of the day may also matters. Instead of the recommendation that everyone should strive to achieve 150 minutes of weekly exercise, our results show physical activity recommendations can been more personalized. People can adopt a combination of activity that works best for them.

Earlier research shows that sitting is related to health risks. Our new study has revealed that 150 minutes of weekly exercise is not enough to overcome the health risks of sitting too much. But we also revealed that with the right balance of time spent on physical activity on vigorous, moderate, and light intensity, it may be possible to counteract the negatives of sitting.

We combined data from six different studies from the UK, US, and Sweden, looking at a total of over 130,000 adults. Each of the studies used a physical activity monitor to measure a person’s movements and sitting time throughout the day. Each study then followed the participants for an average of four to 14 years to track premature death. Responsible for the project was Professor Sebastian Chastin of Glasgow University. From Karolinska Institutet, Maria Hagströmer and Philip von Rosen participated.

Maria Hagströmer and Philip von Rosen, Division of Physiotherapy, NVS.

As expected, we found that 30 minutes of daily moderate to vigorous intensity decreased the risk of early death by up to 80% for those who also spent less than seven hours a day sitting. But it didn’t have the same effect for people who spent between 11 and 12 hours a day sitting. A healthy lifestyle requires more than 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity if you spend a lot of time sitting.

We found that different combinations of exercise and movement can compensate for sitting. In simple terms, three minutes of physical activity at moderate to high intensity or 12 minutes of physical activity at light intensity per hour spent sitting can improve your health and decrease the risk of premature death. Sitting will always be part of our lives – it’s all about sitting in moderation. The key is to find the right combination between time spent sitting and physical activity.


Joint association between accelerometry-measured daily combination of time spent in physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleep and all-cause mortality: a pooled analysis of six prospective cohorts using compositional analysis.
Chastin S, McGregor D, Palarea-Albaladejo J, Diaz KM, Hagströmer M, Hallal PC, van Hees VT, Hooker S, Howard VJ, Lee IM, von Rosen P, Sabia S, Shiroma EJ, Yerramalla MS, Dall P
Br J Sports Med 2021 May;():


Maria Hagströmer Professor/Physical Therapist