An easy way to offset the health risks of sitting all day long!
To reduce the harmful effects of sitting on your health, take a 5-minute walk every half hour. This is the main finding of a new study published by researchers in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.
The researchers asked 11 healthy middle-aged and older adults to sit in the lab for 8 hours, which corresponds to a normal working day, over five separate days. On one such day, participants sat for a full 8 hours with short breaks to go to the bathroom.
On other days, they tested a number of different strategies to diversify sitting with a light walk. For example, on one test day, participants walked for one minute every half hour. On another day they walked for 5 minutes every hour.
The goal was to find the least amount of walking that could be done to offset the detrimental health effects of sitting. In particular, they measured changes in blood sugar levels and blood pressure, which are two important risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
They found that brisk walking for 5 minutes every half hour was the only strategy that significantly lowered blood sugar compared to sitting all day. In particular, walking for 5 minutes every half hour reduced the rise in blood sugar after eating by almost 60%.
This strategy also reduced blood pressure by four to five points compared to sitting all day. But shorter, less frequent walks also improved blood pressure. Even just one minute of brisk walking every hour lowers blood pressure by five points.
In addition to the physical health benefits, periods of walking also provided mental health benefits. During the study, the researchers asked participants to rate their mental state with a questionnaire. They found that a five-minute brisk walk every half hour compared to sitting all day reduced feelings of fatigue, improved participants’ mood, and made them feel more energized.
They also found that even walking just once an hour was enough to improve mood and reduce fatigue.
People who sit for long hours develop chronic diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, dementia and several types of cancer, much more often than people who move all day. A sedentary lifestyle also puts people at greater risk of early death. But just daily exercise cannot eliminate the harmful health effects of sitting.
Thanks to advances in technology, the amount of time adults in industrialized countries like the United States spend sitting has been steadily increasing for decades. Many adults now spend most of their day sitting.
This problem has escalated with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. And with the transition to remote work these days, people are less likely to leave their homes. It is therefore clear that strategies are needed to deal with a growing public health problem in the twenty-first century.
Current guidelines recommend that adults “sit less, move more.” But these recommendations don’t offer any specific advice or strategies for how often and for how long you should move.
And the job offers a simple strategy: every half hour, take a five-minute walk at a brisk pace. If you have a job or lifestyle that requires you to sit for long periods of time, this change in behavior can reduce the health risks associated with sitting.
The study also provides clear recommendations for employers on how to promote a healthier workplace. And while it may seem counterintuitive, taking regular walk breaks can actually help workers be more productive than non-stop work.
Currently, more than 25 different strategies are being tested to compensate for the harm to health from prolonged sitting.
The report was prepared by Keith Diaz, Associate Professor of Behavioral Medicine at Columbia University.
Source: Science Alert