The percentage of Americans who obtain enough physical activity through their occupational activities continues to fall due to technological advances. Currently, a large percentage of Americans can work their entire day from the seated position leading to decreased short and long term health outcomes. Interestingly, research has shown an individual’s time spent in sedentary activities is an independent risk factor for lower cardiovascular health even if the individual exercises each day. Researchers currently recommend activity breaks throughout the day to break up the sitting time including working from a standing position or even better taking a short walk during the work day. As expected, benefits in cardiovascular markers are directly related to the amount, duration, and intensity of these work breaks.
In addition to impacting daily cardiovascular markers, standing and walking breaks after eating have been shown to lower cardiovascular markers including blood glucose levels. These levels commonly spike after a meal, in particular after a high glycemic index meal, but can be attenuated by post meal activities. A large amount of activity can create digestive symptoms as our body struggles to meet the blood demands of our active muscles as well as our digestive system’s needs for circulation. In contrast, brief, light intensity walking shows promise in lower post meal blood glucose (sugar) levels.
A recent systematic review and meta analysis of the available research was published in the journal Sports Medicine (Buffey et al. 2022). Authors included 7 studies on the effects of sitting, standing, or walking on post meal blood markers. They reported reduced blood glucose levels when participants stood after eating a meal, but light intensity walking was able to reduce both blood glucose and insulin levels among participants. Finally, authors showed using a brief walking vs. standing break at work or after sedentary behaviors was most beneficial to participants blood markers. In our Boulder Physical Therapy practice we aim to improve the lives of our patients through daily activity and exercise.