You may have heard the new way of describing how sitting for prolonged periods of time impact health negatively: sitting “is the new smoking.” It may sound extreme, but its’ basis is rooted in the fact that prolonged sitting leads to increased risk of ill health, obesity, and shorter lifespans. Yet, for the millions of people who work desk jobs, are confined, or spend lots of time at their desks studying, how can they balance the damage?
According to a new study from Columbia University, you have to get up from your seated position and take walking breaks. In a perfect world, the researchers found that you should get up from your chairs at least every 30 minutes. It may sound easy enough, but actually implementing this into your workday can be hard to remember and hard to explain to your boss!
The study compared the blood pressure and blood sugar of healthy adults who took a break from their desks and walked on a treadmill kept nearby their desks. Compared with 1 minute of walking after 30 minutes of physical inactivity while sitting, or waiting until after the 60 minute mark to take a 1 minute or 5 minute walking break, the clear winner was walking for 5 minutes after spending 30 minutes sitting. It significantly decreased blood pressure and blood sugar in those adults who walked after sitting, and its’ effects on blood sugar decreased the risk of spikes in blood sugar by almost sixty percent.
If 5 minutes is too difficult to fit into your workday, walking for 1 minute after 30 minutes of sitting is the next best practice. However, if you can only walk for 1 to 5 minutes after 60 minutes of sitting, there are no benefits at all.
Even though these sound like small wins, if you’re able to walk 5 minutes after 30 minutes of sitting, the decreases in blood pressure and blood sugar actually equal the same effects that occur when you exercise every day for 6 months. That is a small amount of time to fit into your day with results that can pay off! It might be difficult to implement at first; but like all habits, after 3 weeks you should be well on your way to mitigating the damage that sitting may be doing to your health.
Trialduran, Andrea T.; Friel, Ciaran P.; Serafini, Maria A.; Ensari, Ipek; Cheung, Ying Kuen; Diaz, Keith M. Breaking Up Prolonged Sitting to Improve Cardiometabolic Risk: Dose-Response Analysis of a Randomized Cross-Over. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 2023 DOI: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000003109