Too much sitting harms your heart health, but frequent breaks may limit the damage
By Natasha Persaud
Sitting for hours after a meal keeps blood levels of glucose and insulin at harmfully high levels, but taking a 2-minute break every 20 minutes to move around can reduce that response by up to 30 percent, according to a recent study in Diabetes Care. These frequent breaks might help a person stave off type 2 diabetes and heart disease, the top diabetes complication. It's a strategy many of us can use.
Even Light Activity Helps
For the study, the researchers asked 19 overweight or obese men and women—already at high risk of type 2 diabetes—to stroll (2 miles per hour) or walk briskly (3 to 4 miles per hour) on a treadmill during 2-minute breaks. Remarkably, the short-term benefit of either activity was pretty much the same. Over 5 hours, the frequent breaks amounted to about 28 minutes of total activity.
Tips to Help You Sit Less, Move More
Prolonged sitting has harmful health consequences that may be distinct from too little exercise, according to the study authors. You may not have easy access to a treadmill in your office, but simply standing up and moving around might help. If you sit a lot, the researchers suggest using these tips at home and at work:
- There are no rules against standing during meetings – try it
- Stand up and move around while talking on the telephone
- Take a brisk walk during your lunch break
- Conduct meetings while walking outdoors – these can be very effective for one-on-ones with colleagues
- Stand at a high bench top to eat your lunch
- Consider a height adjustable desk that permits working in both a sitting or standing position
- Limit your TV viewing to two hours a day
- Use commercial breaks for household chores
Dunstan, D., et al. “Breaking Up Prolonged Sitting Reduces Postprandial Glucose and Insulin Responses.” Diabetes Care published ahead of print February 28, 2012, doi:10.2337/dc11-1931.
News Release. “Research shows significant health benefits for overweight adults in breaking up prolonged sitting” Feb 29, 2012. Baker IDI: Heart and Diabetes Institute.