5-Minute Strolls In 30-Minute Intervals May Help Lessen Disease Risks From Sitting At Your Desk All Day

Whole Family Living

A new study has looked into ways to improve blood pressure and sugar levels, and they’ve found that taking a short, leisurely stroll around the office, your home, or wherever you work, every 30-minutes may help to improve these levels.

People that sit at their desk all day, even if they get a lot of exercise, can still suffer from bad health because of being so stationary throughout particular times in the day. This new study provides new insight into how many movement breaks people that sit at their desks all day should take throughout the day so that they can help lessen the adverse effects of all those hours sitting still.

According to the study, every five minutes every half-hour of either getting up and moving around, or taking a short stroll through the office or around the work area, may already substantially lessen both blood pressure and blood sugar. The study, which was published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, also shared that ‘moving as little as one minute every hour can still help lower your blood sugar.’

Senior study author and scientist at the Center for Behavioral Cardiovascular Health at Columbia University in New York City, Keith Diaz, PhD, explained, “Regular exercise should remain a top priority for anyone looking to improve and maintain their health. But one cannot simply exercise in the morning and check it off their list. More and more research is showing that how you spend the rest of your day also matters.”

While Any Break is Good, Once Every 30 Minutes Is Best

For the study, scientists asked 11 healthy volunteers to go through five simulated work days in their lab. They were made to stay seated all day, aside from short walking breaks on a treadmill, as well as an occasional trip to the bathroom. Participants were allowed to type on a laptop, read and use their phones when they wanted to. They were also given meals during this time.

During all five days that the volunteers went to the lab, they were randomly assigned to a different schedule of walking breaks, which included either five minutes every 30 or 60 minutes, one minute every 30 or 60 minutes, or no walking at all.

When compared to those that were made to sit all day without taking any walking breaks, the people that spent five minutes on the treadmill every half-hour had a ‘58 percent reduction in blood sugar spikes after large meals.’ Meanwhile, for those that took shorter, less frequent movement breaks, there didn’t seem to be any impact on their blood sugar.

Diaz explained, “When our muscles aren’t used after hours and hours of sitting, they don’t fully help out to regulate blood sugar levels. So we think that regular short walks or ‘activity snacks’ help to activate the muscles to serve as better blood sugar regulators.”

Intermittent Walking Breaks Helps Blood Pressure Too

The study also found that every type of walking break helped to lower the participants’ blood pressure by at least 4 to 5 points. Diaz explained that this could have been due to how seated postures restrict blood flow in the legs over time.

“Regular short walks can help prevent the changes in blood pressure by regularly restoring blood flow to the legs, and it appears that relatively infrequent and short walks are enough to offset this harmful effect of sitting,” Diaz added.

However, the researchers also note that one major limitation of the study was that since it was so small in size, it make it impossible to see ‘significant differences in the outcomes based on the frequency or duration of the walking breaks throughout the day.’ In addition, the results from this study only looked at light-intensity walking, which meant that they didn’t get to see what the results may have been if they had people do ‘moderate-to-vigorous-intensity movement breaks’ throughout the day instead.

Associate professor and chair of the department of epidemiology and biostatistics at the West Virginia University School of Public Health in Morgantown, Bethany Barone Gibbs, PhD, said “The ‘exercise snack’ here was quite slow walking, only 2 miles per hour and well below a brisk level.”

Gibbs, who wasn’t part of the study, also shared “This would be very slow strolling or the intensity levels of doing some light household chores rather than more intense physical activity we would consider to be moderate or vigorous intensity and count toward weekly physical activity goals.”

5-Minute Walks Are Better Than Nothing

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ‘most adults need at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, as well as two days of muscle-building workouts’ for optimal health. However, they also note that this can be difficult to achieve. Gibbs added that this was even harder to achieve when stay-at-home orders forced gyms and other workout facilities were forced to close during the COVID-19 global pandemic.

But even if you don’t necessarily have a good exercise routine in your life, exercise researcher from the University of Sydney, Australia, Matthew Ahmadi, PhD, explained that adding in “exercise snacks” to your workdays can still help improve your health. Mr. Ahmadi was not part of the study either.

He shared, “Even light walking lasting a few minutes at a time to break up sedentary time can be effective in improving our metabolic health, which will lead to better overall health and lower disease risk.” So the bottom line is any movement is still going to be better than no movement at all.