Mother with young child taking a walk

(Photo by Krzysztof Kowalik on Unsplash)

NEW YORK — A five-minute stroll every half an hour is just the tonic for better health, according to a new study.

Researchers from Columbia University say following this regime has the power to lower both blood sugar levels and blood pressure. The study also shows that taking these walking breaks can reduce blood sugar spikes by almost 60 percent in comparison to people who sit all day. They also leave you feeling less tired and significantly improve your mood.

The 11 participants in the study sat in an ergonomic chair for eight hours and were instructed when to take walking breaks. They took part in five different regimes — walking for one minute every 30 minutes of sitting, one minute after 60 minutes, five minutes every 30, five minutes every 60, or not 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,” says study lead author Keith Diaz, PhD, associate professor of behavioral medicine at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, in a media release.

The researchers ensured that each person didn’t over or under exercise. The participants were allowed to work on laptops, read books, and use their phones, and were given meals throughout the study.

Walking can drop blood pressure by up to 5 points

After completing all the tests, it was revealed that the optimal amount of movement was five minutes of walking for every 30 minutes of sitting. Taking a walking break every 30 minutes for one minute also provided modest benefits for blood sugar levels throughout the day.

However, walking every 60 minutes for either one minute or five minutes had no positive impact. The researchers found that walking significantly reduced blood pressure by four to five mm/Hg compared to sitting all day.

“This is a sizeable decrease, comparable to the reduction you would expect from exercising daily for six months,” Diaz says.

“The effects on mood and fatigue are important,” Diaz continues. “People tend to repeat behaviors that make them feel good and that are enjoyable.”

“What we know now is that for optimal health, you need to move regularly at work, in addition to a daily exercise routine,” the study author concludes. “While that may sound impractical, our findings show that even small amounts of walking spread through the work day can significantly lower your risk of heart disease and other chronic illnesses.”

The study is published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, the journal of the American College of Sports Medicine.

South West News Service writer Alice Clifford contributed to this report.

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