Taking short walks every half hour could do more to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes than a 30-minute walk every day, according to a new study.
The findings cement the idea that those with sedentary jobs should get up and step away from their desks regularly to prevent risks to their health.
The study, conducted by researchers from New Zealand’s University of Otago, which appeared recently in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition, focused on 70 healthy adult volunteers, who were asked to participate in three separate tests.
In the first part, volunteers were asked to sit for nine hours. They were given a meal-replacement drink after one hour, four hours, and seven hours, and had their blood glucose and insulin levels tested after each drink.
The volunteers were then asked to perform the same study, this time taking a brisk 30-minute walk before sitting for nine hours.
In the third part, volunteers sat for nine hours and were given the meal-replacement drinks, but added short walks-about 1 minute and 40 seconds-every half hour.
The study found that both post-meal insulin and blood sugar levels were lower following the short walks than after both the nine-hour sedentary session and the 30-minute walk.
“Regular activity breaks were more effective than continuous physical activity at decreasing blood sugar and insulin levels in healthy, normal-weight adults,” said the New Zealand researchers.
The findings echo those of a 2009 Scottish study which found that subjects who performed short bursts of exercise saw lower blood sugar and insulin levels, both key markers for the development of type 2 diabetes.
As part of the study, James Timmons, a professor at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland, has study participants perform quick sprints- four times 30 seconds of intense activity, three times a week for two weeks-and found the subjects had a 23 percent improvement in insulin function.
“This novel approach may help people to lead a healthier life, improve the future health of the population, and save millions simply by making it easier for people to find the time to exercise,” Timmons said.