The Healthy Way to Sit Around Like a Lazy Piece of Trash All Day
Sitting around doing nothing is among life’s greatest pleasures. The problem is, there are significant health risks with living the slug life. Namely, prolonged sitting puts you at an increased risk for heart disease, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and even dementia. So, you know, not great stuff.
There is a hero in this story, though: Keith Diaz, an associate professor of behavioral medicine at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. His particular act of heroism? Trying to figure out how much sitting you can get away with before your slothfulness starts to take a toll on your health.
To do so, Diaz and his colleagues recruited 11 middle to older age participants to come into his lab and sit in an ergonomic chair for eight hours, where they were permitted to use a laptop, read, look at their phones and eat standardized meals. But other than bathroom breaks, the only time they were allowed to get out of their chairs was for prescribed “exercise snacks.” (Nice work if you can get it and all that.)
Participants were instructed to take a one-minute walk after 30 minutes of sitting; a one-minute walk after 60 minutes of sitting; a five-minute walk after 30 minutes of sitting; a five-minute walk after 60 minutes of sitting; or like the grandparents in Willy Wonka, no walk break at all. “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 explained in a press release.
The results revealed that individuals who took a five-minute walk for every 30 minutes of sitting were better off than the rest. It was, in fact, the only “exercise snack” option that noticeably lowered blood pressure and blood sugar, especially after eating. “What we know now is that for optimal health, you need to move regularly at work, in addition to a daily exercise routine,” Diaz said.
Diaz’s team is currently testing 25 different doses of walking on larger sample sizes of people of different ages to determine the ideal amount of physical activity for the average office worker. “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,” he explained.
Just don’t combine your walk break with a smoke break — there’s no amount of steps that can save you from its wrath.