Three minutes of movement every half hour may counteract dangers of sitting, says study

Researchers recommend downloading an app or setting an alarm to remind you to rise every half hour

Continuous sitting is bad for our blood sugar levels and cholesterol. Photo: Unsplash/ Bermix Studio
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

We’ve always known there’s a price to pay for our mostly sedentary lifestyles. And while that still holds true, a new study has found that three minutes of movement every half an hour may lessen the damage caused by continuous sitting.

The practical albeit small study was led by researchers at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden. The team recruited 16 middle-aged men and women in Stockholm with sedentary jobs and a history of obesity.

Half of the volunteers were asked to continue their daily routines while the other half were asked to download an app that alerted them to be active for merely 180 seconds every 30 minutes. This included marching, squatting, climbing stairs or other physical activities.

After tracking metabolic health for three weeks, researchers found that the test results differed slightly. While the group that continued their daily routine displayed the same ongoing problems, the active volunteers showed lower fasting blood sugar levels in the morning and their blood sugar also stabilised during the day.

However, the study notes that bi-hourly three-minute breaks are the minimum amount of movement needed for good health. According to the study, those who rose more regularly and were more active improved the most.

The New York Times reported that Dr Erik Naslund, a professor at the Karolinska Institutet, offered two pieces of advice for those “over-sitting”.

The first was to download an app or set an alarm to remind you to rise every half hour and be active, even if just for a few minutes. “Going to the bathroom or getting a coffee” also count, Naslund said.

The other piece of advice was to keep moving outside of work hours. “In general, it is important to introduce more physical activity into our lives,” he said. “Walk stairs rather than take the elevator. Get off one bus stop earlier on the way home. There are so many minor changes we can make that are beneficial for metabolic health.”

Over the years, several studies have pointed out the dangers of sitting too long, which include increased risk of chronic health problems such as diabetes and heart disease.

Updated: September 09, 2021, 12:18 PM