Is walking enough? Science is discovering how to undo the health risks of sitting all day

A short walk every half hour may help reverse the health damage associated with long periods of sitting, prof New study Find.

Mounting evidence It has been suggested that sitting for long periods of time – an unavoidable fact of life for many workers – poses a health risk even for those who exercise regularly.

In the new study, volunteers who got up and walked for five minutes every half hour had lower blood sugar and blood pressure than those who sat continuously. Researchers also found that walking for one minute every hour helps blood pressure, but not blood sugar, according to a small study published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.

“If you have a job that requires you to sit most of the day or have a largely sedentary lifestyle, this is one strategy that can improve your health and offset the health harms of sitting,” said Keith Diaz, lead author of the study. Assistant Professor of Behavioral Medicine at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons.

It is not clear why Sitting for long periods of time without interruption Bad for your health, but Diaz suspects that at least part of the explanation is that while we’re sitting, we don’t use our leg muscles.

“Muscles act as an important regulator of blood sugar levels,” he said. “If we don’t use it, things don’t go well.”

When it comes to blood pressure, movement helps improve circulation, Diaz said. “When you’re sitting, blood pools in the legs,” he added. “When you activate the muscles of the legs regularly, it helps restore regular blood flow.”

Activity snacks every 30 minutes

To look at the best way to combat the harmful effects of sitting, Diaz and his team tested four “activity snacks” on 11 volunteers: one minute of walking after every 30 minutes of sitting, one minute after 60 minutes of sitting, and five minutes of exercise. After 30 minutes of sitting and five minutes after 60 minutes of sitting. The effects of each of these strategies were compared with those of sitting without rest periods.

Each of the 11 volunteers came to the researchers’ lab where they sat in an ergonomic chair for eight hours, getting up only for a bathroom break and whatever snack they were told to do. All 11 went through each of the strategies, one after the other, plus an eight-hour period in which they only got up for a bathroom break.

Blood pressure and blood sugar were measured during each phase of the study. The strategy that worked best was five minutes of walking for every 30 minutes of sitting. This strategy also had a significant impact on how volunteers’ bodies responded to large meals, resulting in a 58% reduction in food intake. Hypertension compared to sitting all day.

All walking strategies significantly reduced blood pressure by 4 to 5 pointsAnd compared to sitting every eight hours. Each type of snack, with the exception of a one-minute walk every hour, also led to a significant reduction in fatigue and an improvement in mood.

The study proves that walking helps, Diaz said, though he suspects that some managers may frown upon workers who stray from their desks.

“The next important step for us is to change the workplace culture,” he said.

How to take a walking break at work

Suggest, “You could walk to a co-worker’s desk instead of sending an email.” “If you’re on the phone, you can take a walk. You can bring a small water bottle to work so you have to get up to refill it.”

While the strategies suggested in the new study are not a substitute for regular exercise, they may help with the harms of prolonged sitting, said Dr. Ron Blankstein, a preventive cardiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. School.

“We know there is a lot of harm in sitting,” he said. “When you do that without breaks, your blood pressure goes up and your blood sugar spikes.”

Do standing desks help?

While standing desks are becoming a thing, Diaz doesn’t recommend them.

“The science around standing desks is still very mixed,” he added. “And there is some evidence that it may be harmful to your back and the blood vessels in your legs.”

“Being in one position all day, whether it’s standing or sitting, is not good,” Blankstein noted.

The new study findings make sense, said Dr. Doris Chan, a general and interventional cardiologist at NYU Langone Health.

“I’m really glad this is out,” she said. “It could be the beginning of something revolutionary. We just need bigger studies with more people. But this is like a seed that has been planted. It opens doors for all kinds of other research.”

Chan said that getting up and walking every half hour may have other benefits, such as relaxing joints that have become stiff after long periods of sitting.

“I hope that employers read about this study and take seriously that they should allow their employees to take breaks to stretch and move around,” she said. “It may even improve workflow.”

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