We all know that sitting for long periods is bad for our health, but with the sedentary nature of modern day life, it’s almost impossible to avoid. So, what’s the solution? How often should we get up from our chairs and for how long? This article will explore a new study that aims to answer those questions.
The Dangers of Prolonged Sitting
Prolonged sitting is a staple of modern-day life, but mounting evidence suggests that it’s hazardous to our health, even if we exercise regularly. Sitting for long periods can lead to a host of health problems, including an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, and poor posture. As a result, doctors advise all adults to sit less and move more.
The Five-Minute Solution
Columbia University exercise physiologists have recently conducted a study to find out the least amount of activity needed to counteract the health impact of a workday filled with sitting. The study compared five different exercise “snacks,” including one minute of walking after every 30 minutes of sitting, one minute after 60 minutes, five minutes every 30 minutes, five minutes every 60 minutes, and no walking. The results showed that the optimal amount of movement was five minutes of walking every 30 minutes.
How the Study Was Conducted
The study was led by Keith Diaz, PhD, associate professor of behavioral medicine at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. Eleven adults participated in the study, each coming to Diaz’s laboratory to sit in an ergonomic chair for eight hours. Participants were allowed to work on a laptop, read, or use their phones during the sessions and were provided standardized meals. The participants’ blood pressure and blood sugar were periodically measured, and they were given prescribed exercise “snacks” of treadmill walking or a bathroom break.
The Benefits of Walking Every 30 Minutes
The results of the study showed that walking for five minutes every 30 minutes was the only regimen that significantly lowered both blood sugar and blood pressure. This walking regimen also had a dramatic effect on how participants responded to large meals, reducing blood sugar spikes by 58% compared to sitting all day. All amounts of walking significantly reduced blood pressure by 4-5 mmHg compared to sitting all day, a decrease comparable to the reduction you would expect from exercising daily for six months.
The Effects on Mood, Fatigue, and Cognition
The researchers also periodically measured participants’ levels of mood, fatigue, and cognitive performance during the testing. All walking regimens, except walking one minute every hour, led to significant decreases in fatigue and significant improvements in mood. None of the walking regimens influenced cognition.
“The effects on mood and fatigue are important,” says Diaz. “People tend to repeat behaviors that make them feel good and that are enjoyable.”
Walking for Optimal Health
The study showed that for optimal health, you need to move regularly at work, in addition to a daily exercise routine. While this may sound impractical, the findings show that even small amounts of walking spread throughout the work day can significantly lower your risk of heart disease and other chronic illnesses. The Columbia researchers are currently testing 25 different doses of walking on health outcomes and testing a wider variety of people, including those in their 40s, 50s, and 60s, and those with and without diabetes or high blood pressure.
In conclusion, the study by Columbia University exercise physiologists provides valuable information on the benefits of walking every 30 minutes during periods of prolonged sitting. The results showed that walking for five minutes every 30 minutes was the only regimen that significantly lowered both blood sugar and blood pressure.