Researchers in Sweden say that people who work at desks all day should take at least three-minute breaks every 30 minutes to stand up and move around to help diminish certain health impacts from over-sitting, including high blood sugar and high cholesterol.
The study, published in The American Journal of Physiology: Endocrinology and Metabolism, found that among 16 middle-aged, white collar workers at risk for Type 2 diabetes, bi-hourly breaks over a three-week period reduced fasting blood glucose levels and daily glucose variation when compared to baseline levels.
However, the researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, noted that the roughly three-minute breaks every half hour may be the minimum amount of activity needed to prevent negative impacts to metabolic health.
Researchers noted that participants in the study performed three minutes of “low-to-moderate-intensity physical activity,” including walking, stair-climbing and bodyweight squats, with a minimum of at least 15 steps required to count as an active break.
While the study included a relatively small number of participants, the report adds to existing research defending the benefits of regular physical activity, with the authors noting that “every waking hour spent in sedentary postures (i.e., sitting or lying) increases risk for metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes, partly due to the detrimental effects of inactivity on whole body insulin sensitivity.”
The New York Times reported that Erik Näslund, a professor who oversaw the study, said that workers who spend the majority of their days at desks should download an app or set an alarm to remind themselves to take an active break, including by “going to the bathroom or getting a coffee.”
“In general, it is important to introduce more physical activity into our lives,” he added, according to the Times. “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,” he said.