Offset the risks of sitting at a desk with an hour of exercise a day

A new report warns that sitting at a desk for eight hours a day can be harmful to your health, but also finds that an hour's exercise a day could cancel out any dangers. Plan a week of family activity with our seven handy ideas. 

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An international team lead by Professor Ulf Ekelund from the Norwegian School of Sports Sciences and Cambridge University analysed data covering over a million people and found that workers who staying seated at a desk or computer for eight hours had an increased risk of dying 9.9% over a follow-up period, compared to 6.8% for those who sat down for less than four hours daily. The good news? The study, published last week in The Lancet, also showed that you can offset the risks of a sedentary job by doing one hour of exercise each day. 

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Fitting an hour of physical activity into a day might seem like a stretch on a busy schedule, but considering the average British adult watches more than three hours of TV each day, perhaps it’s time we rethought how we’re spending our evenings. Whilst a full hour of activity is recommended, little changes like walking or cycling to work all count towards offsetting health risks, and even taking a few 10 minute breaks at work is beneficial.

Professor Ekelund commented to The Guardian that: “You don’t need to do sport, you don’t need to go to the gym. It’s OK doing some brisk walking, maybe in the morning, during lunchtime, after dinner in the evening. You can split it up over the day, but you need to do at least one hour.”

How to fit more exercise into your day

1. Cycle to work and back

Commuting by bike is an easy way to fit in exercise time and can actually be a lot quicker than driving or taking the bus during rush hour. 

2. Take the kids to the park

Whilst the summer evenings are still with us why not pop to the park on the way home from school? Our favourite wildlife websites are packed with ideas for games to play, crafts to try and natural wonders to spot. Get active with age-old games like tag and hide-and-seek, or find a tree to climb.

3. Find a lunchtime exercise class

Have a look at what perks your company offers – some organise exercise classes for employees or offer discounted gym and leisure centre memberships. Sports centres are increasingly offering classes which fit into a lunch break, or find a nearby pool for a half-hour dip. 

4. Go for a dog walk at your nearest national park

There are no less than 15 astonishing national parks in the UK, so wherever you live you’re likely to have on your doorstep. If you were inspired by the recent National Parks week find your local natural haven and plan an evening walk with your pooch for a big dose of fresh air.

5. Go wild swimming

Feeling like it’s the hottest day of the year in your stuffy office? Visit Wild Swimming on your lunch break and find the closest river or pool where you can cool off with a swim. Getting fit and getting out in nature: a perfect summer evening.

6. Beach explorers

We sometimes forget we are islanders, surrounded on all sides by the beautiful British coastline. If you’re lucky enough to be a walk or a train ride away from the ocean, head there after work and go for a tramp along the sand or the coast path with the kids. You could even plan a treasure hunt – who can find a shell with a hole in it, a striped feature, a piece of driftwood?

7. Check Countryfile.com

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Our Go Outdoors section is full of walking routes and great ideas for days out near you – find foraging ideas, a woodland trail or camping advice and plan an evening adventure.