Americans sit a lot, and we know from previous studies that prolonged sitting can have a negative effect on our physical and mental health. Now, new research shows that breaking up sitting with even small periods of activity—including something as simple as walking—can offer significant benefits.
A study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity focused on more than two dozen working adults whose jobs required them to sit for most or all of the day. They were asked to participate in three 6-hour “work” sessions that involved either just sitting and working or some combination of walking and working.
After analyzing the data from each session, along with accompanying health tests and survey results, researchers found that getting up and walking for five minutes every hour improved participants’ mood, increased their energy, and reduced feelings of fatigue—which researchers believe may promote overall health as well as optimal brain function. The hourly bursts of walking also helped to reduce food cravings.
Five minutes every hour is an achievable goal, points out study author Jack Groppel, PhD, adding that it can be as simple as walking around the office or up and down the stairs. For those who don’t work, a quick walk outdoors or getting up to do a few small household tasks may offer similar benefits.