To reduce the harmful health effects of sitting, take a five-minute light walk every half-hour. That’s the key finding of a new study that my colleagues and I published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.
We asked 11 healthy middle-aged and older adults to sit in our lab for eight hours – representing a standard workday – over the course of five separate days. On one of those days, participants sat for the entire eight hours with only short breaks to use the bathroom. On the other days, we tested a number of different strategies to break up a person’s sitting with light walking. For example, on one day, participants walked for one minute every half-hour. On another day, they walked for five minutes every hour.
Our goal was to find the least amount of walking one could do to offset the harmful health effects of sitting. In particular, we measured changes in blood sugar levels and blood pressure, two important risk factors for heart disease.
We found that a five-minute light walk every half-hour was the only strategy that reduced blood sugar levels substantially compared with sitting all day. In particular, five-minute walks every half-hour reduced the blood sugar spike after eating by almost 60%.