How to slash the dangers of sitting surprisingly fast

As someone who sits at her desk all day long, I’m a prime candidate for diabetes, heart disease, dementia and cancer.

It was only months ago that I wrote a piece here called “8 good reasons to get up out of your chair NOW.”

Time to follow my own advice.

The transition to home-based work that’s occurred during the pandemic has only increased the number of us who live a sedentary life.

But even retirees are not immune to the sins of sitting.

That’s why researchers are always looking for ways to counteract its harmful effects…

Like the scientists from Columbia University and the Icahn School of Medicine at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital who’ve come up with a simple, affordable strategy that I’m going to use starting today…

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Can a little walking make a difference?

The researchers wanted to find the smallest amount of walking a person could do that would offset the harmful effects of sitting. They specifically measured changes in blood sugar levels and blood pressure, two important risk factors for heart disease.

To start, eleven healthy adults, middle-aged and up, spent eight hours sitting in the research lab on five separate days.

On one of those five days, the participants sat for the entire eight hours. They only got up to take short bathroom breaks. Sounds like me on a busy day.

On the other four days, the researchers tried out a few strategies to break up all that sitting. One day participants would get up to walk every half hour for just one minute. On another day, they would walk for five minutes every hour.

What was the magic number?

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Just five minutes per half hour

The good news is that it doesn’t take much to counteract the negative effects of sitting at your desk all day.

A five-minute light walk every half hour was the winning strategy. Not only was this the only solution that reduced blood sugar levels significantly when compared with sitting all day, but it also lowered blood pressure.

Specifically, those five-minute walks every half hour:

  • Reduced blood sugar spikes after eating by almost 60 percent and;
  • Dropped blood pressure by four to five points

But the really good news?

Even just a one-minute light walk every hour reduced blood pressure by five points.

But the benefits didn’t end there…

During the study, participants rated their mental state using a questionnaire.

A five-minute light walk every half hour reduced feelings of fatigue, put participants in a better mood and helped them feel more energized. Even walking once an hour resulted in similar improvements.

If you’ve ever taken a walk when you felt “in a rut,” tired or unfocused, you’ll know what we mean.

I already have mild hypertension. So, you can be sure that I’ll be getting up out of my chair every half hour for that five-minute walk (maybe longer, if the weather is nice!).

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Sources:

There’s a Simple Way to Offset The Health Risks of Sitting All Day — Science Alert

Breaking Up Prolonged Sitting to Improve Cardiometabolic Risk: Dose-Response Analysis of a Randomized Cross-Over Trial — Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise

Sedentary Behavior and Health: Update from the 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee — Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise

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Joyce Hollman

By Joyce Hollman

Joyce Hollman is a writer based in Kennebunk, Maine, specializing in the medical/healthcare and natural/alternative health space. Health challenges of her own led Joyce on a journey to discover ways to feel better through organic living, utilizing natural health strategies. Now, practicing yoga and meditation, and working towards living in a chemical-free home, her experiences make her the perfect conduit to help others live and feel better naturally.