How often do you have to get up and how much to walk if you spend a lot of time sitting down, according to a study

The overweight, obesity and diabetes, among other non-communicable diseases, are on a worrying rise. Poor nutrition is one of the factors driving this progress, but it is not the only one: the physical inactivity also plays a central role.

The causes of the problem are clear: the world population eats worse and moves less. On this last aspect, there is growing evidence that suggests that spending a lot of time sitting, a classic of modern life, is dangerous to health, even if you exercise regularly.

As a result, health professionals advise people of all ages to spend less time sitting or lying down and add minutes in motion.

The slogan can be difficult to comply with, especially for those who, due to work or other reasons, must spend many hours on a chair. For this reason, more and more scientific studies seek to provide answers that help counteract the damage linked to an unhealthy lifestyle.

A sedentary lifestyle increases the risk of developing diseases. Photo Shutterstock.

In this context, a new job conducted by exercise physiologists at Columbia University (United States) titled “Breaking Prolonged Sitting to Improve Cardiometabolic Risk: Dose-Response Analysis of a Randomized Crossover Trial”.

How often do we have to get up from our chairs? And for how long? These were the central questions that the researchers tried to answer and thus they arrived at a formula that was associated with benefits.

The study, led by Keith Diaz, a professor of behavioral medicine at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, was published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercisethe journal of the American College of Sports Medicine.

Unlike other studies that test one or two activity options, this job tried five combinations many different: one minute of walking after every 30 minutes of sitting, one minute after one hour, five minutes every half hour and five minutes of movement after sitting for 60 minutes. The alternative of not walking was also tested.

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

The study included 11 adults who attended the laboratory of the team led by Diaz. All were asked to spend eight hours sitting in an ergonomic chair, getting up only to complete different walks on a treadmill or to go to the bathroom.

the researchers controlled the intervention to ensure that participants did not over or under exercise and regularly measured blood pressure and blood sugar, two key indicators of cardiovascular health.

Participants were allowed to work on a computer, read, and use their phones during the sessions and were given standardized meals.

5×30, the formula for success?

The optimal amount of movement, the researchers found, was to walk five minutes every half hour. This was the frequency and amount that significantly reduced both the blood sugar like blood pressure.

Additionally, this walking regimen had a marked effect on how participants responded to large meals, reducing blood sugar spikes by 58% compared to sitting all day.

take a walk break one minute every half hour it also provided modest benefits for blood sugar levels throughout the day, while walking every 60 minutes (whether for one minute or five minutes) did not benefit.

All amounts of walking significantly lowered blood pressure compared to sitting all day.

In addition, all “recesses” (except walking for one minute every hour), led to significant reductions in fatigue and noticeable improvements in mood.

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“Los effects on mood and fatigue are important,” said the study’s author. “People tend to repeat behaviors that make them feel good and that they enjoy.”

Columbia researchers are currently testing 25 different doses of walking on health outcomes in a larger and more diverse sample of people: participants in the current study were in their 40s, 50s, and 60s, and most did not have diabetes or high blood pressure.

“What we know now is that for optimal health, you need move regularly at workin addition to a daily exercise routine,” Diaz said.

They advise getting up and walking around at least once every half hour.  Photo Shutterstock.
They advise getting up and walking around at least once every half hour. Photo Shutterstock.

“While that may seem impractical, our findings show that even small amounts of walking during the workday can significantly reduce the heart disease risk and other chronic conditions,” he concluded.

other formulas

The formula the Columbia University researchers arrived at is close to those arrived at in previous work and to those arrived at by colleagues who led similar studies.

Using data from six studies that included more than 130,000 adults in the United Kingdom, the United States, and Sweden, Diaz and his team applied a technique called composition analysis to determine how different combinations of activities, including moderate to vigorous exercise (such as walking, running, or other activities that increase your heart rate) and the light physical activity (such as housework or taking an occasional walk) and sedentary behavioraffect mortality.

The ideal combination to live longer and better, as found in the reviewis a 3 to 1 formula. That is, get three minutes of moderate to vigorous activity or 12 minutes of light activity per hour of sitting.

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“While there will always be sitting in our lives, as with most things in life, it’s about sitting in moderation. The key is finding the right balance between sedentary time and physical activity,” Diaz said while presenting those results.

While other work carried out by scientists from the Karolinska Institute, in Sweden, showed that get up and move every half hour for about three minutes it can reduce the health consequences of prolonged sitting.

The investigationwhich included 16 middle-aged men and women from Stockholm with sedentary office jobs and a history of obesity, showed that walking up several flights of stairs, doing some jumping jacks or squats, or even taking a few steps during these mini-breaks improves aspects of control of blood glucose, without significantly interrupting the workday.


Do you want to read more about exercise and physical activity?

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