New York City – Mounting evidence suggests prolonged sitting, a part of modern-day urban life, is hazardous to your health, even if you exercise regularly.
Based on findings by a Columbia University research, doctors advise all adults to sit less and move more.
Few studies have compared multiple options to come up with the answer most office workers want: What is the least amount of activity needed to counteract the health impact of a workday filled with sitting?
Now a study by Columbia University exercise physiologists has an answer: just five minutes of walking every half hour during periods of prolonged sitting can offset some of the most harmful effects.
The study was published online in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, the journal of the American College of Sports Medicine.
Unlike other studies that test one or two activity options, the latest research tested five different exercise snacks: one minute of walking after every 30 minutes of sitting, one minute after 60 minutes; five minutes every 30; five minutes every 60; and no walking.
The optimal amount of movement, the researchers found, was five minutes of walking every 30 minutes. This was the only amount that significantly lowered both blood sugar and blood pressure.
In addition, this walking regimen had a dramatic effect on how the participants responded to large meals, reducing blood sugar spikes by 58 percent compared with sitting all day.
Taking a walking break every 30 minutes for one minute also provided modest benefits for blood sugar levels throughout the day, while walking every 60 minutes (either for one minute or five minutes) provided no benefit.
All amounts of walking significantly reduced blood pressure by 4 to 5 millimetres of mercury (mmHg) compared with sitting all day which is a sizeable decrease.
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 Columbia researchers are currently testing 25 different doses of walking on health outcomes and testing a wider variety of people: Participants in the current study were in their 40s, 50s and 60s, and most did not have diabetes or high blood pressure.