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The power of a 5-minute walk

by Jericho Zafra

SIT less, move more.

As an employee of a Business Process Outsourcing Company, Julius Christian Cruz, 23, often spends his shift sitting. According to him, he can only get up from his chair and do short walks during his break or worse, at the end of his duty.

He has noticed a drastic change in his lifestyle in the past few months: no exercise, sleep deprivation, and an unhealthy diet.

“I can no longer recall the last time I jogged. All I can remember is that I spent the last year sitting because of the demands of my work,” he said.

He tries to do home exercises during his days off, but due to heavy workloads during his shifts, he cannot do proper workouts consistently because he prefers to sleep to regain his energy.

The dangers of a sedentary lifestyle

The story of Cruz is similar to that of the millions of employees who have been locked in a sedentary lifestyle, and who may be at risk of getting diseases.

The Philippine Society of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism said in a 2018 report that BPO workers are among the millions of Filipinos who are at risk of getting diabetes due to the nature of their work. Approximately 40 million Filipinos are predicted to have diabetes by 2040, it said. 

According to Mayo Clinic, several health concerns are linked to excessive sitting, including obesity and metabolic syndrome. These diseases are marked by high blood pressure, excessive blood sugar, extra fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol levels.

How to prevent it?

A recent study published by the American College of Sports Medicine revealed that a five-minute walk for every 30 minutes of prolonged sitting could offset the risk of being sedentary.

The study assessed five different exercise “snacks,” as opposed to other studies that only tested one or two options: one minute of walking after every 30 minutes of sitting, one minute after 60 minutes, five minutes every 30 minutes, five minutes every 60 minutes, and no walking.

“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,” said lead author Keith Diaz, Ph.D., in a statement.

Impact of a 5-minute walk

Each of the 11 adults who signed up for the study came to Diaz’s laboratory, where they spent eight hours in an ergonomic chair, getting up only to walk on the treadmill for their recommended workout snack or to use the restroom.

The study revealed that all five options yielded significant decreases in systolic blood pressure, but it was indicated that those participants who walked for five minutes every 30 minutes of prolonged sitting had the most significant reduction in systolic blood pressure compared to other assessments.

It said that the walking regimen dramatically changed individuals’ responses to heavy meals, which decreased blood sugar spikes by 58 percent compared to sitting all day.

According to the study, blood sugar levels throughout the day were moderately improved by taking one-minute walking breaks every 30 minutes, while walking for five minutes every 60 minutes had no positive benefits.

The report likewise noted that all walking routines, except for one minute every hour, resulted in notable reductions in fatigue and substantial enhancements in mood. 

However, none of the walking regimens had an impact on cognition. But Diaz said the “effects on mood and fatigue are important” because individuals routinely repeat activities that give them a positive and joyful experience. 

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