Recent research has revealed that taking small breaks from sitting at your desk – to stand up and make a phone call or walk down the hallway – will not only clear your head, but also help you lose weight and improve your heart health and metabolism.
The study, published in the European Heart Journal, tracked the daily activity levels of 4800 volunteers and revealed that the longer people were inactive, the higher their levels of blood fats and markers of inflammation and insulin resistance. Conversely, those who took more frequent breaks – even short breaks as little as one minute – had smaller waist measurements and the most active participants had waists that were 4.1 cm smaller than the least active quarter.
It’s no surprise that remaining sedentary for prolonged periods will have an adverse effect on your health, and that applies even to those who exercise regularly. ‘What we found was the more sedentary people were, the more sitting and the more reclining people did, the worse off they were in terms of cardio-metabolic function and inflammation, such as waist circumference, blood fats, lower levels of good cholesterol and protein inflammation markers,’ said Genevieve Healy, lead author of the report and research fellow at the University of Queensland, to the Sydney Morning Herald.
In developed countries where the average person spends more than half their day sitting and heart disease is the number one cause of premature death, this is an important finding. On the up-side, it seems that any movement or activity that breaks up long periods of being sedentary, no matter how small, will have a positive impact on weight and health. It’s all about contracting large postural muscles, which ‘flushes out the bad stuff,’ according to Dr Healy.
‘Even if you exercise for 30 to 60 minutes a day, what you do for the rest of the day may also be important for your cardiovascular health,’ Healy told the Yale Medical Group. ‘This research suggests that even small changes to a person's activity levels [as little as standing up regularly] might help to lower cardiovascular risk. These changes can be readily incorporated into the person's day-to-day life [including the work environment]. Stand up, move more, more often, could be used as a slogan to help get this message across,’ said Healy.
So that means get off your chair as often as possible while at work, and don’t forget that regular exercise is still important.