It’s no secret: Sitting too much is hazardous to your health.
According to the Mayo Clinic, extended periods of sitting are linked to an increased likelihood of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer—a mortality risk similar to that of smokers. What’s worse, some research—such as a 2016 study out of the University of Texas at Austin—suggest that even regular exercise, such as a daily run, isn’t enough to counteract the negative effects of long bouts of sitting.
Now for the good news: Super-short spurts of intense activity every hour may do the trick, according to a new study out of the same UT Austin lab that conducted the 2016 research. In the study, healthy adults ate a fatty breakfast and then proceeded to sit for eight hours, punctuated once an hour by a series of five 4-second intervals of all-out effort on a no-resistance stationary bike, with 45 seconds of rest between each interval.
This tiny bit of exercise—not even 3 minutes over the entire day—was enough to diminish several of the bad effects of sitting too much. For example, it decreased the participants’ triglyceride response by about a third and improved their whole-body fat-oxidation by 43 percent, compared with a control group.
Don’t have a stationary bike in your office so you can replicate these results? Here are some strategies you can try:
- DeskCycle 2. Place this low-profile, legs-only cycling machine under your desk or near where you watch TV. Keep it on a low tension level, so you can get up to speed immediately, and pump your arms as you pedal to up the intensity. $199, deskcycle.com
- Sprint in place. Stand next to your desk and perform “fast-feet” intervals, in which you run in place, moving your feet up and down as quickly as possible (picture a football drill), while vigorously pumping your arms.
- Take five. Every hour take a 5-minute walk. Move at a fast pace, or better yet, go up and down a flight or two of stairs throughout the 5 minutes.
Whatever your movement of choice, set an alarm to make sure you do it every hour. The payoff? You’ll likely live longer—and feel better doing it.