A five-minute, light walk every half an hour could possibly save a person from early death, according to a new study.
“Exercising daily does not alone reverse the harmful health effects of sitting,” said Keith Diaz, a certified exercise physiologist and assistant professor of behavioural medicine at the Columbia University Irving Medical Centre in New York, who helped co-author the study.
“People who sit for hours on end develop chronic diseases including diabetes, heart disease, dementia and several types of cancer at much higher rates than people who move throughout their day,” he wrote in the study, published recently in the Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise journal.
Light walking throughout the day activates a person’s muscles regularly and serves as a great blood sugar regulator, according to the study.
“The sitting posture creates bends and constrictions in the blood vessels of the legs. This ultimately changes blood flow and can lead to increases in blood pressure,” he said.
For the study, the authors invited 11 participants to visit a laboratory where they sat for eight-hour sessions.
They were allowed to work, read and use their mobile phones. During the sedentary sessions, however, they followed one of five exercises prescribed by the researchers.
The exercises included one minute of walking after every 30 minutes of sitting, one minute of walking after 60 minutes of sitting, five minutes of walking after every 30 minutes of sitting, five minutes of walking after every 60 minutes of sitting and no walking.
Towards the end, the researchers found that participants’ blood sugar and blood pressure levels were reduced after five minutes of walking for every 30 minutes of sitting.
“When our muscles aren’t used after hours and hours of sitting, they don’t fully help out to regulate blood sugar and cholesterol levels. So we think that regular short walks or ‘activity snacks’ help to activate the muscles to serve as better blood sugar and cholesterol regulators,” according to the researchers.
Diaz also told Medical News Today that the most exciting part of this new research, according to him, is that they have answered how best to prevent the detrimental health effects of sitting.
“Just like we have recommendations on how many fruits and vegetables we should eat each day and how much we should exercise – this is the most exciting part of this work,” he said.
“We finally have an answer. There are so many adults who have a job or lifestyle where they have to sit for prolonged periods. We can now provide them with guidance on this one behaviour change to reduce their health risks from sitting.”