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The scientific WFH formula: How often to get up from your chair

·3-min read
A man sitting and working from desk at home, a woman with a standing desk set up
Science has revealed how often you should get up while working from home. (Source: Getty)

The science is in: if you’re working from home, you should get up for every three minutes every half an hour to combat the unwanted side-effects of high blood sugar and high cholesterol as a result of sitting too much.

A new study has found that taking even as little as 15 steps every half an hour helps to manage blood sugar control for desk-bound workers.

And with millions of Australians still in lockdown, getting regular exercise has become more difficult and dropped off as a priority.

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More than half (55 per cent) of Aussies don’t meet physical activity guidelines, according to ABS data, and more than 4 in 10 of working-age adults (44 per cent) spend most of their work day sitting.

The lack of physical activity has serious consequences; physical inactivity contributes to diseases such as diabetes, cancer, dementia, heart disease, strokes and more, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

What did the study find?

In the study, published in an American science journal on physiology, a team of Stockholm researchers tapped 16 middle-aged men and women with desk jobs and a history of obesity and at risk for diabetes, got them to wear activity monitors, and split them into two groups.

The first group was the control group and continued on with their regular lives, while the other group were prompted by a smartphone app to get up every 30 minutes in their workday for some “low-to-moderate intensity” physical activity for three minutes.

This could involve walking through the office, walking on the spot, walking up and down stairs, or anything else that might break up periods of sitting with some activity.

But a minimum of 15 steps was needed to be considered an activity break.

After the three-week study, small differences were found between the two groups: the control group continued to have ongoing issues with insulin resistance, blood sugar control and cholesterol.

A young man working from home, walking and carrying his laptop with him
Taking active breaks every 30 minutes have proven to have health benefits. (Source: Getty)

Meanwhile, the other group who moved every half an hour in their desk job had lower blood sugar levels in the morning and consequently better levels of blood sugar at night.

This group also saw more stabilised blood sugar levels in the day, with less dramatic spikes and dips than the control group.

But even within the active group, the results varied; those who were most active in their three minutes, around 75 steps or more, improved their metabolism the most.

The good news is, you can incorporate a small break that you were going to take anyway.

Karolinska Institute professor Dr Erik Näslund, who oversaw the study, told the New York Times: “going to the bathroom or getting a coffee” counts.

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