Even with regular exercise, prolonged sitting can have negative health effects, according to published findings Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise.
Columbia University researchers found that walking for five minutes every half hour helped counteract the harmful effects of prolonged sitting. They studied 5 different short bouts of exercise, including walking for 1 minute after sitting for 30 minutes, walking for 1 minute after 60 minutes, walking for 5 minutes every 30 minutes, walking for 5 minutes every 60 minutes, and no walking.
“If we’re not comparing multiple options and varying the frequency and duration of exercise, we’re only giving people our best guess about the best routine,” said Dr. Keith Diaz, an associate professor of behavioral medicine at Columbia University. ” the university’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons said in a statement.
In other studies, researchers evaluated 1 or 2 activity options, but did not arrive at an optimal solution.
The researchers included 11 people who sat in an ergonomic chair for eight hours and only got up at recommended times, such as going to the bathroom or walking on a treadmill.
Participants were monitored to ensure they were not over or under exercising.
The investigators also regularly measured the individuals’ blood pressure and blood sugar levels, key indicators of cardiovascular health.
In addition, participants were allowed to read, work on laptops and use cell phones during the session, and meals were provided.
The researchers found that the optimal amount of exercise was five minutes every 30 minutes, and that was the only time that significantly lowered blood pressure and blood sugar.
Furthermore, this time period had a dramatic effect on an individual’s response to a large meal by reducing blood sugar spikes by 58% compared to sitting all day.
The findings showed that a 1-minute walking break every 30 minutes also had some benefit on blood sugar levels, but neither a 1-minute or 5-minute walking break every 60 minutes had any benefit.
“What we know now is that for optimal health, you need to be exercising regularly at work, in addition to your daily exercise routine,” Diaz said. “While this sounds far-fetched, our findings suggest that even a small amount of walking during the week can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease and other chronic diseases.”
Compared with sitting all day, all the walking was associated with a significant reduction in blood pressure of 4 to 5 mmHg, Diaz noted, which is comparable to the reduction in blood pressure of six months of daily exercise.
Investigators also periodically measured individuals’ cognitive performance, fatigue and mood levels during the test. All walking regimens, except walking for 1 minute per hour, significantly reduced fatigue and significantly improved mood.
However, none of the walking regimens had an effect on cognition.
Investigators are assessing the effects of walking on health outcomes at 25 different “doses” and evaluating a wider range of individuals.
All of the people in the current study were in their 40s, 50s, and 60s, and most did not have diabetes or high blood pressure.
Prescription for sedentary: Take a five-minute walk every half hour. Science Daily. Press Releases. January 12, 2023. Accessed January 17, 2023. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2023/01/230112134726.htm