In this article, you will find what you need to do to offset the health hazards of prolonged sitting.

How To Counteract Harmful Health Impacts Of Sitting For Long Hours?

Modern-day life involves sitting for long hours – whether due to the requirement of an office job, watching TV, or working on computers. And we all know this is hazardous to one’s health. Now new findings have found that prolonged sitting is damaging to your health even if you exercise regularly. That’s why doctors advise us to sit less and move more.

But how often do you need to get up from your chairs? And for how long?

Until recently, only a few studies have compared various options to find out the answer most office workers look for: What is the least amount of activity needed to counteract the health hazards of a workday involving prolonged sitting hours?

Now, a study by Columbia University exercise physiologists has an answer. The study shows that just five minutes of walking every half an hour during periods of prolonged sitting can counteract some of the most damaging effects.

This study titled “Breaking up Prolonged Sitting to Improve Cardiometabolic Risk: Dose-Response Analysis of a Randomized Cross-Over Trial” was led by Keith Diaz, Ph.D., associate professor of behavioral medicine at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. It was published online in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, the journal of the American College of Sports Medicine.

Difference Between New Multiple Studies And Earlier Studies

Unlike previous studies that tested one or two activity options, Diaz’s new study tested five different exercise options: one minute of walking after every half an hour of sitting, one minute after one hour; five minutes every half an hour; five minutes every hour; and no walking.

Diaz explained: “If we hadn’t analyzed and compared multiple options and varied the duration and frequency of the exercise, we would have been able to provide people with only our best guesses of the optimal routine.”

Each of the 11 adult participants in the study visited Diaz’s laboratory, where they sat in an ergonomic chair for eight hours, rising only for their predetermined exercise stint of treadmill walking or a bathroom break. Researchers supervised each participant to ensure they did neither over- nor under-exercise and periodically measured their blood pressure and blood sugar (key indicators of cardiovascular health). Participants were allowed to work on a laptop, read, and use their phones during the prolonged sitting sessions and were given standardized meals.

Researchers found that the optimal amount of movement was five minutes of walking every half an hour. This was the only amount that substantially lowered both blood pressure and blood sugar. Moreover, this walking regimen had a dramatic impact on how the participants responded to large meals, lowering blood sugar spikes by 58% compared to sitting all day.

On the other hand, taking a walking break of one minute every 30 minutes also showed modest benefits for blood sugar levels throughout the day. But walking after every hour (whether for one minute or five minutes) showed no benefit.

All Exercise Regimens Improved Blood Pressure.

All walking regimens considerably lowered blood pressure by 4 to 5 mmHg compared to sitting all day. “This is a significant reduction, comparable to the decrease you would expect from exercising daily for six months,” noted Diaz.

During the study, the researchers also periodically assessed participants’ levels of mood, fatigue, and cognitive performance.  All walking regimens, except walking one minute every hour, led to significant reductions in fatigue and remarkable improvements in mood. None of the walking regimens had any impact on cognition.

“The impacts on mood and fatigue are encouraging,” Diaz noted. “We tend to repeat behaviors that make us feel good and that are enjoyable.”

Encouraged by their findings, the Columbia researchers are currently studying 25 different regimens of walking on health outcomes and involving a wider variety of people: Participants in the current study are in their 40s, 50s, and 60s, and most did not have high blood pressure or diabetes.

The Takeaway

Diaz remarked: “Now we know that for optimal health, in addition to a daily exercise routine, you need to move regularly at work. Well, that may sound impractical to some of you, but our findings reveal that even small amounts of walking spread through the workday can significantly reduce your risk of heart disease and other chronic illnesses.”

About Author: Renu Bakshi, AKA Fitness Buffhq – Best Fitness Guru, is ISSA Certified Elite Trainer. He Renu Bakshi - Fitness Buffhqpassed Personal Fitness Trainer Course, Nutrition Health Coach course & Specialist Exercise Therapy course from ISSA, the USA, obtaining + 97% marks. He shares his experience and knowledge about nutrition and effective workouts to get you in the best shape of your life, no matter how old you may be. The author says: “For me, age is just a number!”

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