Study: 5-Minute Walk Every 30 Minutes Improves Health Outcomes After Prolonged Sitting

Analysis includes 11 individuals who sat in ergonomic chairs for 8 hours and only got up at the recommended times.

Prolonged sitting can negatively affect health, even with regular exercise, according to the results of a study published Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

Investigators from Columbia University found that 5 minutes of walking every half hour during prolonged periods of sitting can help offset harmful effects. They studied 5 different short exercises, which included 1 minute of walking after 30 minutes of sitting, 1 minute after 60 minutes, 5 minutes every 30 minutes, 5 minutes after every 60 minutes, and no walking.

“If we hadn't compared multiple options and varied the frequency and duration of the exercise, we would have only been able to provide people with our best guesses of the optimal routine,” Keith Diaz, PhD, associate professor of behavioral medicine at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, said in a statement.

In other studies, investigators evaluated 1 or 2 activity options, which has not led to an optimal solution.

Investigators included 11 individuals in the study who sat in ergonomic chairs for 8 hours and only got up at the recommended times, for bathroom breaks or walking on treadmills.

Participants were monitored to ensure that they did not over- or under-exercise.

Investigators also periodically measured the individuals’ blood pressure and blood sugar levels, which are key indicators of cardiovascular health.

Also, participants were allowed to read, work on laptops, and use their phones during the sessions and were provided meals.

Investigators found that the optimal amount of movement was 5 minutes every 30 minutes, which was the only time that significantly lowered both blood pressure and blood sugar.

Additionally, this amount of time had a dramatic effect on how individuals responded to larger meals by reducing blood sugar spikes by 58% compared with sitting all day.

Study results showed that taking a walking break for 1 minute every 30 minutes also provided modest benefits in blood sugar levels, but walking every 60 minutes provided no benefit, regardless of it being 1 or 5 minutes.

“What we know now is that for optimal health, you need to move regularly at work, in addition to a daily exercise routine,” Diaz said. “While that may sound impractical, our findings show that even small amounts of walking spread through the workday can significantly lower your risk of heart disease and other chronic illnesses.”

All amounts of walking significantly reduced blood pressure by 4 to 5 mmHg compared with sitting all day, which Diaz noted was a comparable reduction to exercising daily for 6 months.

Investigators also periodically measured the individual’s levels of cognitive performance, fatigue, and mood during the testing. All walking regimens, except walking 1 minute every hour, led to significant decreases in fatigue and significant improvements in mood.

However, none of the walking regimens had an impact on cognition.

Investigators are evaluating 25 different “doses” of walking on health outcomes as well as evaluating a wider variety of individuals.

In the current study, all individuals were in their 40s, 50s, and 60s, and most did not have diabetes or high blood pressure.

Reference

Rx for prolonged sitting: A five-minute stroll every half hour. Science Daily. News release. January 12, 2023. Accessed January 17, 2023. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2023/01/230112134726.htm

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