Five-Minute Walk Every 30 Minutes Keeps You Healthy
A study conducted by exercise physiologists at Columbia University has found an answer: just five minutes of walking every half hour during periods of prolonged sitting can offset some of the most detrimental consequences.
Keith Diaz, Ph.D., associate professor of behavioral medicine at Columbia University’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, conducted the study.
Unlike earlier research, Diaz’s study investigated five different exercise types: one minute of walking after every 30 minutes of sitting, one minute after 60 minutes, five minutes every 30 minutes, five minutes every 60 minutes, and no walking.
“If we hadn’t compared multiple options and varied the frequency and duration of the exercise, we would have only been able to provide people with our best guesses of the optimal routine,” Diaz says.
Each of the 11 adults who took part in the study arrived at Diaz’s laboratory and sat in an ergonomic chair for eight hours, rising only for their scheduled exercise of treadmill walking or a bathroom break. Researchers monitored each participant to ensure they did not over- or under-exercise, and they took blood pressure and blood sugar readings regularly (key indicators of cardiovascular health). Participants were allowed to work on a laptop, read, and use their phones throughout the sessions, and standardized lunches were given.
Ideal Exercise Schedule if You Have a Desk Job
The researchers discovered that five minutes of walking every 30 minutes was the ideal amount of mobility. It was the only dose that reduced both blood sugar and blood pressure considerably. Furthermore, compared to sitting all day, this walking schedule had a striking effect on how participants responded to heavy meals, lowering blood sugar rises by 58%.
Walking for one minute every 30 minutes offered small benefits for blood sugar levels throughout the day, whereas walking every 60 minutes (for one minute or five minutes) provided no effect.
Walking of any length lowered blood pressure by 4 to 5 mmHg when compared to sitting all day. “This is a sizeable decrease, comparable to the reduction you would expect from exercising daily for six months,” says Diaz.
Throughout the testing, the researchers monitored the subjects’ mood, exhaustion, and cognitive function. Except for walking one minute every hour, all walking regimens resulted in considerable reductions in fatigue and significant improvements in mood. None of the walking regimens had any effect on cognition.
“The effects on mood and fatigue are important,” Diaz says. “People tend to repeat behaviors that make them feel good and that are enjoyable.”
The Columbia researchers are currently examining the effects of 25 various dosages of walking on health outcomes in a larger range of people: The present study’s participants were in their 40s, 50s, and 60s, and the majority did not have diabetes or high blood pressure.
“What we know now is that for optimal health, you need to move regularly at work, in addition to a daily exercise routine,” says Diaz. “While that may sound impractical, our findings show that even small amounts of walking spread through the workday can significantly lower your risk of heart disease and other chronic illnesses.”
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