The Benefits of Walking for 5 Minutes Every Half Hour to Improve Wellness

Be it at the office or in school, most people sit most of the day. For those hours of prolonged sitting, there is now a healthy antidote to restore body and mind. Thanks to a January, 2023, study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, clear guidelines are out that are easy to follow. Enjoy health benefits all round by walking for five minutes every half hour!

Take an exercise “snack”!
To determine the ideal amount of exercise needed to maintain health, researchers studied exercise “snacks,” according to a Columbia University press release. While previous studies only compared two exercise options, this research used five while 11 participants sat for eight hours.

They compared the participants’ health after a minute’s walk following 30 minutes of sitting; a minute of walking after 60 minutes of sitting; five minutes of walking every half hour; five minutes’ walking every hour; and no walking at all.

“If we hadn’t compared multiple options and varied the frequency and duration of the exercise, we would have only been able to provide people with our best guesses of the optimal routine,” lead researcher Keith Diaz said in the press release.

They discovered that five minutes of walking every half hour was the only amount that showed decreases in blood pressure and blood sugar in significant amounts. Compared with participants who sat all day, they saw a reduction in blood sugar spikes by 58 percent.

The advantages do not stop here; researchers also observed improved moods. “The effects on mood and fatigue are important. People tend to repeat behaviors that make them feel good and that are enjoyable,” Diaz explained. As those feelings of getting up and moving around were positive, they could become a motivation for more routine walks during the day.

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Sitting is an occupational hazard
It has been a decade since experts have known that sitting increases one’s risk for many chronic diseases, according to CNN. “Just like how much fruits and vegetables they should eat and how much exercise they should do, we need to give specific guidance on how to combat the harms of sitting,” Diaz told CNN.

The idea is to break up the sedentary activity with movement, which can be as slow as 1.9 miles an hour.  When you move, your muscles contract, helping to regulate cholesterol levels and blood sugar.

Changing social norms
Now that the guidelines are out, the next step is educating employers. Sitting all day at work has become accepted. “There are these social norms where if you are up out of your desk, people think you’re not working,” Diaz said.  

Diaz is trying to explain to employers that moving during the day is good on an individual level and also for the bottom line; a healthy worker is a more productive and satisfied employee.

He also pointed out that standing desks may not be as healthy as perceived. “I’m not sure there’s really solid scientific evidence that standing is really any better than sitting. I worry that people have this false sense that they are healthy because they are using this desk, and maybe they’re not actually that much better,” he said.

If you are sitting while you are reading this and have not walked around for a while, get up! Treat yourself to an exercise “snack” and then indulge in another one in a half hour. The benefits of a simple, easy five-minute walk are outstanding!

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