Making Intermittent Activity a New Healthy Habit3 min read
Most of us have heard of the benefits of intermittent fasting. We’ve also heard of the dangers of sitting too much. Well, recent research shows the benefits of short, periodic bouts of movement – what I am calling intermittent activity. I have talked about this in detail in my book, Today is Still the Day. I suggest setting a timer to go off every 30 to 45 minutes and then engaging in some type of activity or movement.
While this study used 5 minute walks, you could substitute any type of movement/activity you prefer. Depending on whether you are at home or in an office setting, I recommend things like stretches, squats, jumping jacks, lunges, high knees, donkey kicks as well as short walks.
It’s not news that sitting for long periods of time negatively impacts health. In fact sitting for long periods of time, even if you exercise regularly, is as dangerous to your health as smoking! One expert has called this being “actively sedentary,” which she describes as: “… a new category of people who are fit for one hour but sitting around the rest of the day. You can’t offset 10 hours of stillness with one hour of exercise.”
The reason these periodic, intermittent activity breaks are so important is this: when people sit uninterrupted for 3 hours, it negatively impacts the ability of the of the lining within their leg arteries to expand and dilate as needed in response to blood flow. This symptom may be a precursor to heart disease. When people break up their 3 hours of sitting with 5-minute walking breaks once an hour, the function of the arteries in their legs is not negatively impacted.
It is actually recommended that for every 30 minutes of sitting, you move for a minimum of one minute and 45 seconds. It doesn’t much matter what you do. The suggestions above are a good starting place. There are standing desks and even treadmill standing desks so you can get activity in while doing your work.
Obviously if you work from home you may have a bit more freedom to work activity breaks into your day. If you work in an office, every bathroom break can become an activity break. Walking to a colleague’s desk rather than texting or emailing is another activity burst. Taking a walk, outside if possible, during a lunch break is another great way to up your activity game.
While you may not be able to invest in an expensive standing desk or treadmill, you can certainly include the simple ways to up your activity level already mentioned. I go into more detail about this in my book, Today is Still the Day, but even sitting on a balance disc or exercise ball a few hours of your work day helps you engage core muscles while you sit.
Making these intermittent activity breaks a part of your daily routine is a simple and painless way to protect your circulation and heart health.
Do you regularly get up during the day and move intentionally throughout your day?