Stand up and stretch to break up sedentary time

NEW YORK Wed Apr 9, 2008 3:16pm EDT

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NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Attention office workers, couch potatoes, and other sedentary people: reduce your time spent sitting by getting up and using your muscles more regularly throughout the day, says Dr. Genevieve N. Healy.

Breaks from sedentary activity appear to complement the health benefits gleaned from other types of physical activity.

Moreover, Healy told Reuters Health, "a break could be as simple and light in intensity as standing and stretching."

Healy, from the University of Queensland, in Brisbane, Australia, and colleagues measured the non-sleeping sedentary and active time of 168 Australian adults to determine whether taking breaks might impact their weight and metabolism. The subjects were participants in the Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle study, but did not have diabetes.

This healthy group, who ranged in age from 30 to 87 years, kept an activity diary and wore an accelerometer during all waking hours for 7 days, the researchers report in Diabetes Care. The accelerometer, worn firmly around the trunk, measured the duration, type, and intensity of physical activity in counts per minute.

The researchers considered accelerometer counts of less than 100 per minute as sedentary periods, and counts of 100 or greater as active time. Light-intensity activity was from 100 to 1951 per minute and counts more than 1951 were periods of moderate-to-vigorous activity.

Overall, participants spent 57, 39, and 4 percent of their waking hours in sedentary, light-intensity, and moderate-to-vigorous intensity activity, respectively. On average, their breaks lasted less than 5 minutes, with accelerometer counts of 514 per minute.

They found that the number of breaks from sedentary activity positively correlated with lower waist circumference, lower triglycerides, and lower 2-plasma glucose scores.

Further studies should examine the physiological and metabolic responses in larger groups of people during prolonged periods of sitting and regular interruptions with short bouts of activity, Healy added.

SOURCE: Diabetes Care, April 2008.

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