Sedentary office jobs can harm your health, studies show

If you sit for long periods during the day, taking two-minute walks each hour may help counteract the harmful health effects.

If you work in an office, chances are you spend plenty of time sitting down — and as you’ve probably heard by now, the evidence is in that this can have a negative impact on your health.

But a new study says that taking a two-minute walk each hour can counteract that harm.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, suggests that even a few minutes of movement per hour — a brisk walk to the copy machine down the hall, a quick jaunt to hand-deliver a message to a colleague instead of emailing it — may substantially counteract the increased risk for mortality caused by sitting for long periods.

The study is just the latest of several pointing to the benefits of getting up and moving during the day.

“There have been many studies done on the benefits of getting up off of the chair and walking for a couple of minutes,” says Dr. Charles Pelitera, assistant kinesiology professor and coordinator of the health and wellness program at Canisuis College in Buffalo, N.Y. “There’s been some research on great benefits in weight control and increasing energy associated with three 10-minute bouts of walking spaced evenly throughout the day.

"Getting off the chair at work may be the solution to the obesity epidemic,” he adds.

Another recent study addressed the cardiovascular health effects of sitting and found that each added hour of sitting increased the amount of calcium blockage in the coronary arteries. 

It seems clear: For people with sedentary jobs, taking mini-breaks during the day can have a positive effect — and it needn’t affect your job performance.

“This can be as simple as going to the restroom, standing up and walking in place, or going up and down a few flights of stairs,” according to John Higgins, MD, a certified clinical exercise specialist, associate professor of medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, and chief of cardiology at the university’s Lyndon B. Johnson General Hospital. “It’s not only a good break for your eyes and brain, but it ensures that the heart gets a mini-workout and the blood gets moving in the legs, which reduces the chances of developing blood clots in the legs too.”

He recommends using an activity tracker or smartphone app to remind yourself to get up and move. “Some can be set up to provide a little reminder, a buzz or beep, if someone has been still and inactive for too long (longer than one hour).”

Have a creative strategy for how you make sure you get in some movement during the workday? Share your tips below.

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