Walk at Least Five Minutes Every Hour

09/09/2014

Walk at Least Five Minutes Every Hour
Healthy Living - September 9, 2014
Joan Pellegrini, MDJoan Pellegrini
 
 
We have all heard the recommendation to increase our activity. We keep hearing this because there is strong evidence linking inactivity with heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and cancer (2).  The vast majority of medical experts recognize the health benefits of moderated, daily exercise.
 
However, what if your job requires sitting all day? There is some data to show that even if you were to hit the gym right after work, you still have an increased risk of heart disease because of the many hours of inactivity (if you do hit the gym after work: congratulations!). Most of the studies that look at the risk of obesity and heart disease in inactive adults are only observational studies.  There are very few studies that have attempted to look at the physiologic reasons behind this correlation. This week in Medical News Today there is an interesting article that looked at the arteries in the legs of people who sat without walking compared to those who got up and walked 5 minutes every hour. This study found a difference between the two groups in the function of the arteries in the legs (2).
 
Based on this news report, I decided to do a quick search of the medical literature to see what other studies might be out there that looked at physiologic changes with gentle walking or exercise.  One study shows better blood sugar control after meals (3). Another study shows improvement in depression in some women (4). With that type of evidence, one research group decided to look at the benefit of an email reminder to get up and walk the stairs. Admittedly, this was not every day but it was on a regular basis throughout the week. They showed an improvement in heart rate, blood pressure, and fitness level of the employees who participated (5).
 
If you sit all day, not all is lost. You can schedule a reminder to get up every hour and walk at least 5 minutes. Perhaps you use the stairs or take a quick walk around the block.  Besides the health benefits, you may even notice an improvement in your mood and in your ability to concentrate when you get back to your desk. If your work place does not facilitate even these short breaks, you can still consider getting up at your desk and walking in place. Better yet, it may be time to have an interesting discussion with your boss.
 
1) Lancet. 2012 Jul 21; 380(9838):219-29. Lee, IM, et al. Effect of physical inactivity on major non-communicable diseases worldwide: an analysis of burden of disease and life expectancy.
2) http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/282194.php
3) J Sci Med Sport. 2014 Mar 20. Bailey, DP, Locke, CD. Breaking up prolonged sitting with light-intensity walking improves postprandial glycemia, but breaking up sitting with standing does not.
4) Aging Ment Health. 2014 Aug 18:1-8. Effects of a six-month walking intervention on depression in inactive post-menopausal women: a randomized controlled trial.
5) J Med Internet Res. 2013 Jun 21; 15(6):e127. Andersen, et al.  Cardiovascular health effects of internet-based encouragements to do daily workplace stair-walks: randomized controlled trial.