The Writing Desk

Work-Walk-Work Therapy

We’ve heard the warnings. Sitting is killing us. So people are responding. Sales of standing desks are booming. Varidesk has grown from a wobbly startup to market leader in just three years. Walking desks might offer more benefits…at at a much higher cost. But research is pointing to a much simpler answer – work-walk-work therapy.

It’s really quite simple. Just get up and walk for five minutes every hour. You see, walking around for those few minutes throughout the day can have an impressive benefit. It can provide even more benefit than a longer 30-minute walk all at once. Two new studies support this idea.

Last month, Audrey Bergouignan and colleagues published the first of these studies. It was a randomized crossover trial comparing three different activity patterns. The baseline was six hours of uninterrupted sitting. One of the other options was sitting, plus a 30-minute morning walk. And then in the other alternative, people broke up their sitting time with five minutes of walking every hour.

Both forms of walking made people feel more energetic and vigorous. But walking every hour was superior in a number of ways. Moods were better. Fatigue and food cravings at the end of the day were less.

In the second study, Bernard Duvivier et al published yet another study in people with type 2 diabetes. They compared the effects of uninterrupted sitting to structured exercise or short bouts of walking throughout the day. Once again, walking a bit throughout the day proved to be the healthiest strategy. People who regularly got up and walked around had healthier blood sugar levels and better insulin sensitivity. Those are two indications of keeping diabetes under control.

So, if you want a standing desk, go for it. If your employer offers a walking desk, give it a go. But above all else, take the simple step of walking about at least once every hour. It’s free: work-walk-work therapy.

Click here for the study by Bergouignan et al, here for the study by Duvivier et al, and here for more from the New York Times. For a guide to the health hazards of sitting click here. If you want technology to help you remember to get up, click here for some gadget options, here for an iPhone app, or here for an Android app.

The Writing Desk, photograph © Mike Beales / flickr

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December 30, 2016