A 5-minute Walk Every 30 Minutes May Lower Health Risks of Prolonged Sitting

A new study reveals the optimal amount of exercise needed during extended sitting sessions to reduce blood pressure and blood sugar levels.

According to research, whether working from home or in an office setting, sitting for prolonged periods is associated with a host of negative health effects. For example, a 2017 study suggests that remaining seated during a work shift was linked to exhaustion during the day, high blood pressure, and musculoskeletal conditions in the lower back, thighs, and shoulders.

Getting up and moving around can combat these effects, but just how much activity is enough to reduce the risks is unclear.

However, a new study from exercise physiologists at Columbia University may have found the answer to that question.

The study, published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise — the journal of the American College of Sports Medicine, found that a five-minute walk every 30 minutes offset some of the most harmful health effects associated with prolonged periods of sitting.

The scientists recruited 11 adults to conduct the research. The participants sat in an office chair for eight hours, getting out of the chair only to complete their assigned treadmill walking task or take a bathroom break. They were also given meals and allowed to work on a laptop or read.

The scientists tested five different exercise break frequencies and durations, including no walking, walking on the treadmill for one minute every 30 minutes, five minutes every 30 minutes, one minute every 60 minutes, and five minutes after every 60 minutes of sitting.

The researchers also measured the participant’s blood pressure and blood sugar levels during the experiment.

The team found that any amount of walking reduced blood pressure by 4–5 mmHg compared to no walking. Moreover, walking one minute every 30 minutes provided some benefits for blood sugar levels.

In addition, mood and fatigue levels improved with all walking tasks except for walking one minute every hour. Still, none of the walking sessions enhanced mental clarity.

However, walking for 5 minutes every half hour resulted in the most benefits to blood sugar and blood pressure levels. This amount of walking also reduced blood sugar spikes after large meals.

Because the study included a small number of participants and only five walking regimens, the team is currently investigating 25 different walking routines with a wider variety of people.

“What we know now is that for optimal health, you need to move regularly at work, in addition to a daily exercise routine,” Keith Diaz, PhD, associate professor of behavioral medicine at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons said in a news release.

“While that may sound impractical, our findings show that even small amounts of walking spread through the work day can significantly lower your risk of heart disease and other chronic illnesses,” Diaz added.

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