It’s an epidemic affecting everyone from those with desk jobs to retirees and even couch potatoes—and the really bad news is that your daily bout of exercise doesn’t do much to help. Sitting disease, as it’s now called, is a nickname for the ill-effects that come with a sedentary lifestyle.
Thanks to research, we know that this type of lifestyle puts people at a greater risk of developing obesity, depression, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer. Now, it seems, research is also uncovering some ways to lessen the risk.
A recent study from the University of Utah published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (CJASN) found that, contrary to popular belief, standing frequently was not enough to offset the ill-effects brought on by sitting, but frequent walking seemed to cut mortality risk.
The study surveyed 3,243 participants who wore accelerometers to measure the intensity of their daily activity. Flash forward three years and 137 of those participants had died. According to the study, there was no benefit for those that simply stood for two minutes each hour. On the bright side, though, engaging in “light intensity activities” (like walking) for two minutes each hour led to a 33 percent lower chance of mortality.
“It was fascinating to see the results because the current national focus is on moderate or vigorous activity. To see that light activity had an association with lower mortality is intriguing,” said author of the study and professor of internal medicine Srinivasan Beddhu, M.D. in a press release. “Based on these results we would recommend adding two minutes of walking each hour in combination with normal activities, which should include 2.5 hours of moderate exercise each week,” says Beddhu.
Regular moderately intense exercise is important for health, but does little to minimize the hazards that come with a sedentary lifestyle. Luckily, it seems that short bursts of walking could greatly benefit your health. There is still more to learn about minimizing the risks, but it seems putting one foot in front of the other is a great place to start.