Ate too much? A short walk every 30 minutes can help

The practice also mitigates the effect of prolonged sitting, claims new study

Take your calls and grab coffee from a neighbouring cafe by foot during your working day to mitigate the effects of prolonged sitting. Getty Images
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It’s no secret that sitting for prolonged periods of time can wreak havoc on our health, resulting in poor posture, back and neck aches, and even more serious diseases.

“As well as the impact it has on our spinal health, one of the biggest pieces of research to date, involving about 800,000 people, has revealed that sitting increases our chance of death through cardiovascular events by 90 per cent,” says Dr Feras Bader, staff physician at the Heart and Vascular Institute, Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi. “A sedentary lifestyle is also associated with a 112 per cent increased risk of getting diabetes.”

Bader adds that “remaining seated for too long is bad for our health, regardless of how much we exercise”.

A potential solution, according to a study published on Thursday by Columbia University researchers, could well be “exercising” every 30 minutes. This does not have to be a quick HIIT workout or even on-desk yoga, but rather can manifest in the form of a five-minute walk every half-hour.

Key findings

The proof is in the plodding. The research team, led by Keith Diaz, associate professor of behavioural medicine at Columbia’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, reported that walking for five minutes after every 30 significantly lowered both blood sugar and blood pressure.

In turn, this significantly affected how participants responded to large meals: blood sugar spikes were down by 58 per cent compared to sitting all day.

Further research showed taking a walking break every 30 minutes for one minute provided modest benefits for blood sugar levels throughout the day, but walking every 60 minutes — whether for a minute or five — provided no benefit.

Walk it off

For those who work an eight-hour day, combining 10-minute breaks each hour equates 80 minutes worth of steps. While a walk (unless it’s super-brisk) is considered a moderate exercise, an hour-plus is still more than most people do in a single cardio session at the gym or park.

It all boils down to consistency, frequency and longevity. Some tricks to spice up your walking life at work include taking the stairs, parking your car farther than you normally would, avoiding the car when getting coffee or going to lunch, walking around during phone calls and even holding team meetings on foot.

Updated: January 13, 2023, 4:01 PM