The majority of Americans have desk jobs. We’re commuters who spend hours traveling to and fro, receptionists fielding phone calls, attorneys reading through case files and accountants balancing books. Therefore, realistically, it’s not always possible to step away from the chair, the computer, the phone, or the drawers and files of information – at least not for extended periods of time. Short of changing our career and way of life, most of us are limited in our ability to add a substantial amount of physical activity to our already busy workday.
Crushed between our morning commute, house work, and parental duties, it’s no wonder eight out of ten Americans fall short of the recommended 2.5 hours of moderate to vigorous activity we need each week. That’s why researchers recently decided to explore whether or not there were benefits to longer spans of low intensity and light intensity activities when compared to sitting, lying down, watching television, or other sedentary behaviors. Could things like standing, light housecleaning, or the casual walking we all do throughout the day add to our lifespan and overall health?
After studying data collected from 3,243 adult participants, researchers found that even the lightest physical activity made a difference. Published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, the new study concluded that our risk of death is reduced by 33 percent when we merely substitute two minutes of sitting per hour with two minutes of light intensity activity like cleaning, light gardening, or casual walking. Furthermore, a 2.5 Metabolic Equivalent of Task (MET) activity spanning one to five minutes each hour could boost weekly energy expenditure by 200 to 1,000 kcal.
Certainly more vigorous workouts – even moderate activity – is always ideal. But when you can’t squeeze it in, don’t throw in the towel. Stepping away from the desk for just two minutes per hour increases your metabolic activity and circulation. And since it’s nearly impossible to stand perfectly still, you’re also using muscles to maintain balance. So refill your bottled water or take a brisk two-minute walk around the building every hour because all of those little steps can add years to your lifespan.