A review of a research study on the amount of light activity that would result in benefits to cardiometabolic measures is highly encouraging. The study by L.C Dalleck, PhD, and his team in the High Altitude Exercise Physiology Program at Western State Colorado University investigated the optimal frequency, intensity and duration of activity to improve blood glucose levels, blood pressure and dyslipidemia (high blood fats) in middle aged and older adults. The number of participants was small at thirteen, but the results were significant.
The participants were already engaged in some exercise training which they continued as normal, and the independent effect of four different programmes of Sedentary Interruption Bouts (SIB) was monitored. They all suffered from one or more of the cardiometabolic disorders above, and all reported a minimum of six hours a day of sitting.
Of the four interventions the most successful in terms of improving the measures studied were –
5 minutes of low intensity activity every hour of sitting, or
10 minutes of low intensity activity every two hours of sitting.
(The other two programmes – 5 minutes of more intense activity every two hours, and 5 minutes of low intensity activity every 2 hours – were not significantly helpful).
So, what activities did the study subjects do for their 5 minutes every hour, or 10 minutes every 2 hours? The key factor was they were standing, and doing light chores, such as washing dishes, folding laundry, desk work, typing, filing, reading, talking on the phone or walking slowly <2mph.
The Sedentary Interruption bouts of 5 minutes every hour, or 10 minutes every two hours resulted in lower blood glucose concentration, lower triglycerides and higher HDL levels (‘good’ cholesterol). Blood pressure changes were non-significant, as were resting metabolic rate, weight and VO2.
The takeaway message is that hourly / two hourly interruptions to sedentary behaviour with low intensity movement for five / ten minutes is enough to improve metabolic health. The authors state “we need to appreciate the independent role of not sitting in addition to getting regular exercise”. When the subjects had ‘washout’ weeks between each of the four SIB programmes, improvements they made quickly diminished as their previous sedentary behaviour returned.
“Even a sustained exercise programme a few times a week may not be enough to improve cardiometabolic health if the individual is otherwise sedentary.”
Set an alarm for every hour that prompts you – ‘Stand up, move around’!