How 2 Minutes of Walking Per Hour Can Save Your Life

How 2 Minutes of Walking Per Hour Can Save Your Life

An increasing number of employers are placing a higher value on employee health and fitness. Still, the majority of workplaces don’t emphasize fitness and are not equipped for it. This includes manual laborer and construction jobs, which are more strenuous and physically active than a desk job, but may not provide the same benefits as exercise.

If you’re in a profession in which you spend most of your time sitting at a desk, you may be at a much higher risk of developing many of the diseases that are linked to inactivity.

Studies reported in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (CJASN) have linked daily prolonged sitting to increased risk of premature death, as well as heart disease, diabetes and other chronic health problems. For their analysis, the team used data on 3,243 participants in the 2003-04 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). To monitor the intensity of their activity during waking hours, the survey asked participants to wear accelerometers for several days. The participants were followed for three years after the activity data was collected. During this time 137 study participants died. Researchers concluded that two minutes of walking per hour was linked to 33 percent lower risk of death.

Here are some quick and easy ways to incorporate exercise into your otherwise sedentary workday:

Get Up and Move
Aim to get up and out of your seat at least every 15 to 20 minutes. Since most desk jobs demand long periods of focus and attention, you may need to set a timer to remind yourself when it’s time to move around. You can use a phone, watch or kitchen timer—whatever works best for you.

What should you do during your get-up-and-move break? Walk for at least a minute or two. A brisk walk down a hallway and back, or to the restroom, can give you a quick energy boost, get blood flowing and loosen up the muscles in your legs, buttocks and lower back. These areas are the prime points of discomfort after being seated for a prolonged time.

Use Exercise Bands
It may be hard to keep a set of dumbbells at your desk, but resistance bands allow you to add some strength training to your average workday and are small enough to be stored in a desk drawer. Keep a few bands of different resistance on hand and find a quiet spot in your office or workplace. Try different exercises on different breaks. During one break, do leg squats and arm curls. On the next, do heel raises, tricep press and bent over rows. And on your last break, try a chest press and lateral raise. It will only take a few minutes, you won’t even need to change clothes and you’ll train most of your major muscle groups. Even one set of 10 to 15 repetitions is enough to bring your body great energy and help combat the negative effects of sitting throughout the day.

Hit the Stairs
If you’re looking for something a bit more challenging, take your walk to the stairs. Walking stairs will raise your body temperature, increase your heart rate and get your blood flowing in a short period of time. If you have access to multiple stairwells you can also design a circuit or lap that incorporates both stairs and hallways. Always remember to walk for a minute or two first before taking the stairs at an aggressive pace. Both your legs and heart will appreciate the warm up.

Use Your Breaks
If your typical workday includes breaks and a lunch, think about using some of that time for fitness. For example, if you have 30 minutes for lunch, walk for the first fifteen and then eat your meal before returning to your desk (don’t eat first then walk, as you may not digest your food as well).

Get a Partner
Talk to coworkers or colleagues who are looking to become more active. Find someone else who wants to walk and schedule your breaks together. Not only will this help with motivation and encouragement, but will be a great example to others.

Use an Activity Tracker
Utilizing a step counter or activity tracker can tell you exactly how active you are during the hours you are at work. A journal of your activities may also provide you with insight as to how fitness impacts how you feel day to day.

Now that you’ve got a strategy for the workday, it’s time to come up with a plan for staying fit at home! Check out the Ornish Living article, 8 Secrets to Staying Fit at Home.

This content was originally published on Ornish Living.

Medically reviewed in November 2019.

Exercise to Reap These Benefits
Exercise to Reap These Benefits
If you're anything like our patients (and we think you are -- maybe even better looking), you know exercise is good for you. But you suspect it takes ...
Read More
How does exercise benefit my genes?
Dr. Michael Roizen, MDDr. Michael Roizen, MD
Exercise can actually turn on specific genes to benefit your health and make your life better (l...
More Answers
What are the possible benefits of exercise?
Boston Women's Health Book CollectiveBoston Women's Health Book Collective
The current recommendation is that we exercise moderately (walk briskly, bike, swim, or lift weights...
More Answers
How Beneficial Is Exercise with a Partner?
How Beneficial Is Exercise with a Partner?