Sitting is bad for health, but offsetting impact is easy: study

Get up and move — it’s doctor’s orders.

The consequences of sitting for too long have been expounded for years, but a recent study found a simple way to combat the negative impacts being sedentary has on one’s health.

Just five minutes of light walking every half hour has been found to offset some of the increased risks that come with sitting for long stretches of the day, according to a new study published in the journal of the American College of Sports Medicine.

“We’ve known for probably about a decade now that sitting increases your risk for most chronic diseases and increases your risk for early death,” Keith Diaz, the study’s lead author and assistant professor of behavioral medicine at Columbia University Medical Center, said in a press release.

“Just like how much fruits and vegetables they should eat and how much exercise they should do, we need to give (people) specific guidance on how to combat the harms of sitting.”

Frequent light and short walks have been proven to drastically improve cardiovascular health.
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Diaz and his team instructed 11 participants to sit in ergonomic chairs for eight hours and take regular walking breaks. The participants were guided to either walk for one minute every 30 minutes, one minute every 60 minutes, five minutes every 30 minutes, five minutes every 60 minutes or not at all.

After the experiment was completed, researchers discovered that walking for five minutes as slow as 1.9 miles per hour every 30 minutes offered the best health benefits, mainly helping to regulate blood sugar and pressure.

The research concluded that adhering to the walking regime reduced blood sugar spikes by 60% and blood pressure spikes by about four to five mmHg versus those who sat all day.

“This is a sizeable decrease, comparable to the reduction you would expect from exercising daily for six months,” Diaz reflected.

It should also be noted that all participants in the study were generally healthy adults, meaning that those with chronic conditions may see even greater benefits.

While it is not fully understood why sitting for too long is unhealthy, Diaz explained that it has been theorized that being stationary restricts your muscles from contracting and operating optimally which helps in regulating things like blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

“What we know now is that for optimal health, you need to move regularly at work, in addition to the daily exercise routine,” Diaz said. “Sitting is an occupational hazard and a healthy employee is a more productive employee.”

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