How a Two-Minute Stroll Around the Office Can Save Your Life

Sitting for too long negatively impacts your health and productivity. How two minutes per hour can turn this around.

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By Lisa Evans

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It may the greatest epidemic of our society. The term "sitting disease" has been used to describe the negative effects of our modern sedentary lifestyle. The average American spends 55 percent of their waking time (7.7 hours per day) sitting.

Our fondness for sitting can cause some deadly health consequences, including diabetes, heart disease and even early death. Although we know that sitting for long stretches of time is unhealthy, many companies are still unsure how to respond. While standing desks may be a great solution for some offices, these can also be very expensive. Not to mention, simply abandoning the chair may be impractical for many positions. A new study published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology shows a simple strategy -- walking around for just two minutes every hour -- can help reduce the life-shortening effects of oversitting.

Researchers reviewed data in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a survey which takes a cross section of Americans about how they eat, exercise and feel and then gave 3,626 adult male and female participants monitors to track their movement patterns. The researchers looked at the number of minutes each participant spent sitting, engaging in low-intensity activities such as casual walking and performing moderate to intense activities, such as jogging.

They discovered that those who walked around after standing, replacing some of their sitting time with a light-intensity activity like strolling, showed a reduced mortality risk. Replacing as little as two minutes of sitting time each hour with gentle walking lowered their risk of premature death by about 33 percent.

Just standing for two minutes every hour won't cut it though, according to Dr. Srinivasan Beddhu, a professor of medicine at the University of Utah, who led the study. "Standing for one to five minutes each hour would only burn 30 to 150 calories per week, compared to casual walking which can burn 200 to 1,000 calories," he says.

Related: Are Wellness Programs Right for Your Company?

But burning calories isn't the only reason you should be concerned about sitting time. In addition the health benefits of movement, Beddhu says productivity also increases the more you move. "Physical activity increases brain function," says Beddhu.

Beddhu hopes the study will make us all aware of how long we're sitting and encourage more physical activity through the day.

How can you add an extra two minutes of walking time to your day?

- Locate printers, scanners and other office equipment in a central location that requires you to walk to use it.

- Instead of hosting meetings in a boardroom, have a walking meeting instead, or hold your meeting in an outdoor space like a park that you have to walk to.

- Set a timer on your desk every hour and do one to three laps around your office.

Related: Why I Quit Sucking My Thumb at Age 34. (Yes, It Was a Business Decision.)

Lisa Evans

Lisa Evans is a health and lifestyle freelance journalist from Toronto.

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