Numerous studies have shown that sitting for extended periods of time each day leads to increased risk for early death, as well as heart disease, diabetes and other health conditions.

Scientists at the University of Utah School of Medicine investigated the health benefits of trading sitting for lighter activities for short periods of time.

They examined whether longer durations of low intensity activities (eg standing) and light intensity activities (eg casual walking, light gardening, cleaning) extends the life span of people who are sedentary for more than half of their waking hours.

They found a "trade-off" of sitting for light intensity activities for two minutes each hour was associated with a 33 percent lower risk of dying.

"To see that light activity had an association with lower mortality is intriguing," said lead author Srinivasan Beddhu, professor of internal medicine at the university.

Beddhu explained that while it is obvious that it takes energy to exercise, strolling and other light activities use energy, too.

Even short walks add up to a lot when repeated many times over the course of a week. Assuming 16 awake hours each day, two minutes of strolling each hour expends 400 kcal each week.

That number approaches the 600 kcal it takes to accomplish the recommended weekly goal of moderate exercise. It is also substantially larger than the 50 kcal needed to complete low intensity activities for two minutes each awake hour over the course of one week.

"Based on these results we would recommend adding two minutes of walking each hour in combination with normal activities, which should include 2.5 hours of moderate exercise each week," said Beddhu.

Moderate exercise strengthens the heart, muscles, and bones, and confers health benefits that low and light intensity activities can not, researchers said.

The study examined 3,243 participants who wore accelerometers that objectively measured the intensities of their activities.

The finding was published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

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