People who are sedentary for as much as 10.5 hours a day – while stuck at home during a pandemic, for instance – are at greater risk of ill health and earlier-than-normal death than people who are more active.

But research has found that 30 to 40 minutes a day of moderate-to-vigorous intensity activity can lower that risk to levels associated with people who are more active. The research was published in a special issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine, which focused on the World Health Organization’s new guidelines on physical activity and sedentary behavior.

The WHO guidelines stress that all physical activity counts – gardening, doing household chores, taking stairs rather than an elevator, as well as walking, running, biking and the like – and emphasize that doing some activity is better than none.

Ideally, however, the guidelines recommend that adults get 150 to 300 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity, or 75 to 150 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity (or some combination) for the strongest health benefits.

11 minutes a day of exercise may help counter all that sitting

For children and adolescents, the guidelines recommend they do 60 minutes a day of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. Moderate intensity means an activity strenuous enough to burn off three to six times more energy per minute than when you are at rest (such as brisk walking or mowing the lawn).

With vigorous activity (such as fast biking or tennis singles), you expend more than six times your at-rest energy. The guidelines also note the importance for all ages of regularly doing muscle-strengthening exercise, as well.