The best ways to work-out in 22 minutes – as study finds this is magic number for offsetting ‘negative impact of sitting’

Extended sitting, including watching TV or desk job, can lead to people dying prematurely (Alamy/PA)
Extended sitting, including watching TV or desk job, can lead to people dying prematurely (Alamy/PA)

Just 22 minutes of housework, jogging or brisk walking per day could offset the negative effects of sitting down for too long, new research has suggested.

Researchers found sitting for extended periods – for example, long stints in front of the TV or working at a desk – is associated with dying earlier. However, participating in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) can eliminate the risk.

At the more moderate end of the scale, this could be anything from heavy cleaning around the home, playing badminton or cycling at 10-12mph, while more vigorous activities could include jogging at 6mph or faster, playing football, basketball or tennis.

The study, published online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, backs up the UK chief medical officers’ recommendation of trying to get 150 minutes of MVPA per week – roughly 21 minutes per day.

The research looked at data for 11,989 people aged over 50, half of whom where women, from Norway, Sweden and the US, who had worn activity trackers which measured their MPVA. How long they spent sitting daily was also recorded. Over a five-year follow-up, 805 of the people died.

Author Edvard Sagelv, from the Arctic University of Norway, told the PA news agency: “In our study, we found that only those people doing more than 12 hours per day sitting had a higher risk of death. Every minute higher MVPA showed a lower risk of death – meaning if people were doing less than 22 minutes (such as 10 minutes) there was still a lower risk of death.

“However, doing 22 minutes eliminated the higher risk of death from sedentary time. This means that if doing 22 minutes or more per day, there was no excess risk from sedentary time. And, if doing more than 22 minutes per day, there was a lower risk of death overall. Basically, the more the better.”

How can I get the best workout in 22 minutes?

Less than half an hour a day to offset the negative effects of sitting for too long is good news for anyone who normally struggles to find time to exercise – but how can you make those 22 minutes really count? We asked a fitness pro for some suggestions…

Compound exercises

Ali Malik, personal trainer and founder of Fit Labs Kensington, suggested focusing on compound exercises. “Compound exercises are full-body exercises that engage with multiple muscle groups at the same time. When you are limited in time, it would be more beneficial to do a squat, for example, which engages your core, lumber spin and whole lower body, instead of a bicep curl, which doesn’t,” Malik said.

“Push-ups are also great, as they engage your upper body muscles and core. If you are doing it on your knees, you use less of your legs, but a full push-up will be using your glutes and legs as well – engaging with more than one muscle group.”

Planks are another great compound exercise, because “it’s predominately about your core but engages your full body, as you have to work hard to keep yourself stabilised”.

Malik added: “People sometimes think dead lifts is an advanced exercise, but it’s not. Everyone does a does at least one everyday. For example, if you are picking up a bag from the floor, that’s a dead lift. It can be done with anything as light as two plastic bags filled with a water bottle each, but if you are in the gym you can use dumb bells and kettle bells.”


For a well-rounded workout in 22 minutes, Malik also suggested a circuit based workout – starting with a three-minute warm-up. “This could include a cat cow stretch, a walk out [start standing up, then bend forwards and walk your body out in front of you using your hands, and then back up to standing], then jumping jacks to get your heart rate up and loosen your muscles.”

Then for the circuits, it’s all about repeating multiple exercises in the same order. “I would do 10 squats, 10 press-ups and a 30-second plank. Then rest for 30 seconds, and then repeat that pattern six times. This is about 16 minutes of the workout,” said Malik. “But if you are feeling bored and would like to switch things up, you could do 10 lunges, 10 shoulder taps and leg raises instead.”

Being efficient during a short workout is key, added Malik: “You don’t want to rush through the exercises to risk poor form, but you also don’t want to waste time with long five minute breaks.”

Allow for a three-minute cool-down at the end. Malik explained: “It’s all about calming movements at this stage, to bring down your heart rate and relax your muscles. Start with a child pose, striking cobra – push your pelvis into the floor and then raise your chest, whilst applying pressure with both hands on either side of the body – then I would do a pigeon pose, where you have one leg out in front of you in a bent position and one leg behind you that is straight. This stretches your glute muscles.”

What are the benefits?

There are various benefits to exercises using this format. Malik said: “It will elevate your heart rate, put your muscles under tension to maintain and build strength, and help with your cardiovascular system.”