Wake Up Call! Sitting All Day Doubles Your Chance of Death—but a New Study Says a Tiny Amount of This Exercise Can Help

Plus, a few ways to make it even more effective.

Let’s face it: Many of us spend most of the day sitting at our desks. But regardless of how time-consuming your job is, it’s important to make time for movement, whether that means a walk around the block or getting up to stretch.

It’s no secret that sitting too long isn’t good for you and research confirms it. According to one study, you’re twice as likely to die early if you sit for more than 12 to 13 hours a day.

The good news? A new study says that you can lower that risk by taking a five-minute walk every half hour. Here's everything you need to know about it.



Why Walking Is Beneficial for Your Long-Term Health

This study shows that even small improvements in physical activity can have impacts on blood sugar and blood pressure, Dr. Yu-Ming Ni, MD, a cardiologist at Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, CA, explains. And, it's important to remember that small changes done over the years can have a lasting impact on health. It may not seem like much to walk for five minutes every hour of desk work, but this can add up over the course of the workday.

Over the course of an eight-hour workday, a five-minute walk every hour amounts to 40 minutes of physical activity. Add in a 15-minute walk during your lunch break, and you suddenly have almost an hour of additional physical activity each workday. With these small changes, anyone can make a difference in their health, one walking break at a time, Dr. Ni adds.

Related: Not Into Running or Spin? Worry Not, Because the Simple Act of Taking a Walk Has Some Incredible Health Benefits

Here are some reasons why walking may make such a big difference:

Walking helps you lose weight

Because walking burns the same amount of calories as running as long as you exert a little more effort in your walks, it helps you lose weight, John Gardner, trainer, co-founder and CEO of Kickoff, explains. In fact, if you do 30 minutes of power walking three times a week, you could end up not only losing weight but also abdominal fat.

Walking reduces your risk of diabetes

When you walk regularly, you help the muscles absorb blood sugar which helps reduce the risk of glucose building up in the bloodstream, Gardner states.

Walking can be done anywhere and is suitable for any level of fitness

Because walking is easy on the joints and does not require too much fitness, you can start by walking regardless of your fitness level. It does not require specific equipment and can be done anywhere, making it a suitable exercise for all ages and fitness levels and a great way to get into fitness, Gardner explains.

How to Get the Most Out of Your Walking Workout

Gardner provides a few tips:

Swing your arms

Walking isn’t just about using your legs, but working those arms really helps to accelerate your pace, and allows you to include the upper body in your workout too. Make sure you’re moving your arms in opposition to your leg meaning that you swing your right arm forward with your left leg and vice versa.

Use interval walking

The advantage of interval training is that it helps raise and lower heart rate, shocking your body and allowing you to get better results out of the same workout. This can be achieved with a walking exercise by speeding up for two minutes and going at a slower pace for 30 seconds for the duration of the workout.

Add inclines to your path

Walking is often considered an "easy" workout—if it's considered a workout at all!—but it can actually be very challenging. In fact, every once in a while you should switch it up a bit and add more difficulties to help you achieve better results. Choosing a route with an inclination or even adding an incline on a treadmill can make your walking workout more difficult by using different muscles and exerting more energy. Just make sure that when you’re going up that you lean forward a little to reduce the knee strain.

Related: The Latest TikTok Trend Has People Walking Backward On the Treadmill—Here's How It Benefits Your Body

Combining different forms of walking exercises can help you make the most out of your exercise routine. Here's a five-day example, provided by Gardner:

Day 1: Walk at a steady pace for 30 minutes at a speed that slightly elevates your heart rate.

Day 2: Try interval walking. Alternate between power walking periods and slow-paced walking to get the best results and help increase your endurance.

  • Warm up with 5 minutes of walking

  • For 20 minutes, alternate between 1 minute of power walking and 1 minute of active rest with slower-paced walking.

  • Cool down: 5 minutes of walking at a moderate pace.

Day 3: Resistance training

Add an inclination to your walk. If you’re walking outdoors, you can find an uphill route or steep slope and alternate between walking uphill for 10 minutes and downhill for 5 minutes for a total duration of 30 minutes. This will help build the muscles and strengthen them.

Day 4: Walk at a steady pace for 30 minutes at a speed that slightly elevates your heart rate.

Day 5: Try intervals again:

  • Warm up with 5 minutes of walking.

  • For 20 minutes, alternate between 1 minute of power walking and 1 minute of active rest with slower-paced walking.

  • Cooldown: 5 minutes of walking at a moderate pace.

Next up: Here’s How Many Calories You Actually Burn Walking A Mile—Plus, Ways to Burn Even More


  • Annals of Internal Medicine: “Patterns of Sedentary Behavior and Mortality in U.S. Middle-Aged and Older Adults”

  • Medicine & Science in Sports & Science: “Breaking Up Prolonged Sitting to Improve Cardiometabolic Risk: Dose-Response Analysis of a Randomized Cross-Over Trial”

  • Yu-Ming Ni, MD, cardiologist, of Non-Invasive Cardiology at MemorialCare Heart and Vascular Institute at Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, CA

  • John Gardner, co-founder and CEO of Kickoff