Office workers of the world, rejoice. Getting up and walking around for just two minutes per hour can help mitigate some of the damage caused to your body by sitting in front of a computer all day.
Excessive sitting is turning out to be one of the major health hazards of the modern era, with links to heart disease, diabetes, inflammation and other deadly ailments. The World Health Organization calls physical inactivity the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality.
Fortunately, it doesn’t take an extraordinary amount of effort to reduce at least some of the damage.
Research conducted at the University Of Utah School Of Medicine found that getting up for two minutes every hour can reduce your risk of dying by 33 percent. The study, published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, looked through data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to find the effects of light activity.
The survey tracked 3,200 participants who agreed to wear accelerometers to track physical activity over a three-year period, during which 137 of them died.
While federal guidelines and many experts recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each week, it turns out that even just a light stroll can help to protect your health. Good thing, because 80 percent of Americans don’t reach the two-and-a-half hour benchmark.
“It was fascinating to see the results because the current national focus is on moderate or vigorous activity,” study author Srinivasan Beddhu said to Science Daily. “To see that light activity had an association with lower mortality is intriguing.”
The results are just one more excuse to step away from your spreadsheets and use the bathroom, mosey over to the coffee maker, or just take a quick tour around the office to chat with your co-workers.
However, that doesn’t mean you can pat yourself on the back for leading a healthy lifestyle based on fifteen minutes or so of walking per day.
In addition to the risk factors for chronic illness, too much sitting can also degrade your physical fitness by tightening your joints and muscles and weakening your back. Two minutes of walking per hour is about the base minimum you can do to protect yourself.
Other workplace recommendations include doing various stretches and yoga poses throughout the day, alternating between sitting and standing at your desk, and sitting on an exercise ball or backless stool so your core muscles have to support your posture.
For best results, the study authors recommend that you break up the workday with light activity in addition to practicing a regular, more intense exercise regimen outside of work. But if that isn’t happening, a little walking around is better than nothing.
“Exercise is great, but the reality is that the practical amount of vigorous exercise that can be achieved is limited,” senior author Tom Greene told Science Daily. “Our study suggests that even small changes can have a big impact.”