3 to 1, the ideal formula

Physical exercise is one of the pillars of healthy living, but there is no single “recipe” that works for everyone. A new study from Columbia University and an international team of researchers identified multiple ways to achieve the same health benefits from physical activity. The different combinations, however, share the same secret.

“For decades, we have told people that the way to stay healthy is to do at least 30 minutes of exercise, five days a week, “says Keith Díaz, assistant professor of behavioral medicine and director of the exercise testing laboratory at the Center for Cardiovascular Behavioral Health at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. United).

“But even if you are one of the few adults who can follow this advice, 30 minutes represents only 2% of your day complete, “says Díaz. And he wonders:” Is it really possible that our activity habits for only 2% of the day are the only thing that matters in terms of health? “

According to the researcher, the recommendation on how much exercise to do can be insufficient depending on what people do in the rest of the hours they spend awake.

They advise reducing downtime. Photo Shutterstock.

Different “cocktails”

Previous studies tended to analyze the impact of different types of activity in isolation. “What we don’t know is what is the best combination, or cocktail, of ingredients necessary to prolong life, “says Díaz.

The work entitled “Joint association between the daily combination measured by accelerometry of time spent on physical activity, sedentary behavior and sleep and all-cause mortality: a joint analysis of six prospective cohorts using compositional analysis”, published in Magazine British Journal of  Sports Medicine, addressed that question and identified three different formulas with similar benefits.

Using data from six studies involving more than 130,000 adults in the United Kingdom, the United States, and Sweden, the authors used a technique called composition analysis to determine how different combinations of activities, including exercise, moderate to vigorous exercisesuch as walking, running, or other activities that increase your heart rate; and the light physical activitysuch as housework or occasional walks; and the sedentary behavior, affect mortality.

Light activity also adds up.  Photo Shutterstock.

Light activity also adds up. Photo Shutterstock.

The main conclusion they reached is that the benefits of doing 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise depend on what is done during the rest of the day.

Although the current recommendation of 30 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity reduced the chances of an earlier death In up to 80% of people who remained seated for less than 7 hours, no benefits were observed in the reduction of mortality in those who were very sedentary, that is, who spent more than 11 to 12 hours inactive while they were awake, they reported researchers.

“In other words, it is not as simple as check the ‘exercise’ box on your to-do list, “says Diaz.” A healthy movement profile requires more than 30 minutes of daily exercise. It is also important to move and not be sedentary all day. “

How much physical exercise to do per day

The new physical activity guide of the World Health Organization (WHO) published at the end of 2020 establish that those over 18 years of age must perform at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic physical activity; or at least 75-150 minutes of intense intensity aerobic physical activity; or an equivalent combination of moderate and vigorous intensity activity during the week.

It also encourages you to do activities of muscle strengthening at a moderate or higher intensity that engages all major muscle groups 2 or more days a week as they provide additional health benefits.

The document advises “limiting the amount of sedentary time” and replacing with physical activity of any intensity.

The conclusions of the recent finding point to the same direction.

“What is currently recommended is 30 minutes of physical activity per day, or 150 minutes per week, but it still has the potential to undo all that good work if you sit too long, “explains Sebastien Chastin, professor of dynamic healthy behavior at Caledonian University (Glasgow, Scotland) and lead author of the study.

3 to 1, a balanced combination for health.  Photo Shutterstock.

3 to 1, a balanced combination for health. Photo Shutterstock.

Better, stand up

Light physical activity is more important than you think, say the researchers.

The study found that people who spent only a few minutes doing moderate to vigorous physical activity reduced their risk of premature death by 30% as long as they also spent six hours of light physical activity.

“Maybe you are a father with young children and simply you can’t go to the gym to exercise, “Diaz graphs.” However, you can have a healthy movement profile as long as you move a lot throughout the day while doing your daily activities. “

Sitting is not as bad for your health as smoking, but still badsays Díaz. “While there will always be sitting in our lives, as with most things in life, it’s about sitting in moderation. The key is finding the right balance between sedentary time and physical activity.”

3 to 1, the ideal formula

The ideal combination, the researchers found, is a 3-to-1 formula. That is, perform three minutes of moderate to vigorous activity or 12 minutes of light activity per hour of sitting was optimal for improving health and reducing the risk of premature death.

“Our new formula achieves the proper balance between moderate to vigorous exercise and sitting, to help people live longer and healthier lives, “says Chastin.” The remaining hours should be spent moving as much as possible and getting a good night’s sleep. “

Using this basic formula, the study found that multiple combinations of activities reduced the risk of premature death by 30%:

  • 55 minutes of exercise, 4 hours of light physical activity and 11 hours of sitting.
  • 13 minutes of exercise, 5.5 hours of light physical activity and 10.3 hours sitting.
  • 3 minutes of exercise, 6 hours of light physical activity and 9.7 hours sitting.

Although the authors found that replacing sedentary time with just two minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise is more efficient than replacing it with light physical activity, two minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise equals 12 minutes of light physical exercise.

“This is good news for people who may not have the time, ability, or desire to participate in a formal activity,” says Díaz. “They can get health benefits from lots of light physical activity and just a little moderate to vigorous activity. “

“Our study shows that there is no one-size-fits-all approach for physical activity, and we can choose which ones we like best, “says Díaz.” It may be more important to mix a motion cocktail that includes a healthy dose of exercise and light activity to replace sitting, “he concluded.


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