The sedentary and quiet life that millions of workers have to live each day can wreak havoc on our metabolic health.
High sugar levels and skyrocketing cholesterol are the consequences of the most abundant lifestyle in our world, and affect even a majority of people who seem healthy.
Now, a new study puts on the table a solution that is as simple as it is achievable:
– Stopping every 30 minutes, standing up, and moving around can dramatically decrease the health impact of sitting for hours each day.
Of course, any other exercise such as climbing stairs, doing squats, jumping, doing push-ups against the wall … if possible for 3 minutes would do. But the simplest thing in any office is the 15-step formula.
It is not complicated nor does it slow down your work flow. It would be something like taking a little detour to go to the bathroom.
Small but clarifying study
This study was published in The American Journal of Physiology: Endocrinology and Metabolism, and was conducted by an international consortium of scientists and led by researchers from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden.
The objective was to check the consequences of inserting small but frequent exercise times in the middle of completely sedentary days.
They involved middle-aged clerical workers at high risk for type 2 diabetes and concluded that the “15-step formula,” twice an hour, represents the minimum amount of movement necessary to protect metabolic health.
But be careful that we are talking about minimums, not the ideal time that we should dedicate each day to moving.
Six and a half hours sitting every day
According to epidemiological studies, workers spend a minimum of six and a half hours sitting each workday. And most of that time is not interrupted at almost no time.
So that daily immobility ends up crushing our metabolic health.
As the study authors say:
– “Every waking hour that we spend in sedentary postures, that is, sitting or lying down, increases the risk of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.”
They blame it on the muscles. Especially those of the legs, which are the largest in our body and usually, or should, be active and hungry.
But since we are still, they hardly contract and that means that they do not need to burn almost any “fuel”, they absorb very little sugar and they also do not release biochemicals that would normally help to break down the fatty acids in the blood.
Consequently, when we sit for long hours at our table, blood sugar and cholesterol accumulate in our bloodstream.
Fortunately, if we take frequent breaks or apply the “formula of the 15 steps” we can improve the controls.
Control from 15 steps
The fieldwork for this study was conducted in Stockholm, with middle-aged men and women whose jobs were desk jobs and also had a history of obesity.
People at high risk for problems such as diabetes. And after reviewing their health they put activity monitors on them for a week to see their figures.
After that, half of the volunteers continued with their normal lives and the rest downloaded a smartphone app that alerted them every 30 minutes during the workday to get up and be active.
The app required them to take a minimum of 15 steps to record their movement as an activity pause.
The experiment continued for three weeks, after which everyone returned to the lab for another round of metabolic testing.
The researchers found that those who went on with their normal lives showed ongoing problems with controlling blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
However, those who had stood and moved while working showed lower fasting blood sugar levels in the morning, meaning their bodies controlled sugar better at night.
Additionally, her blood sugar also stabilized throughout the day, with fewer spikes and drops, and the amount of beneficial HDL cholesterol in her bloodstream increased.
They were slight improvements, but over time they could mean the difference between ending up, or not, sick with type 2 diabetes.
The “15-step formula” is a good idea, but it clearly improves if we increase the amount of exercise and maintain the regularity of getting up every half hour.
Because in the study it was also clear that the most active ones achieved better results, and that 75 steps are better than 15.
Dr. Erik Näslund, a professor at the Karolinska Institute who supervised this study, offered two pieces of advice to anyone concerned about overwork and their metabolic health.
• Download an app or set an alarm on your business PC or phone to remind you every half hour that it needs to go off. And do it.
• Try to keep moving outside of work hours because “it is important to introduce more physical activity into our lives.”
• And he provided some very simple tips: “Take the stairs instead of taking the elevator, get off a bus stop earlier when you are coming home …”
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.