Recent studies have shown that walking for a few minutes every hour can be just as beneficial — if not more so — for your health as one extended workout session. For those who sit at a desk or at home for most of the day, getting up and walking for 5-minutes can protect your health and reduce your risk of serious health conditions!
The power of short walks is great news if you don’t time or energy to take an hour-long walk in the morning or walk after dinner. It turns out that in just five minutes each hour, you can get all of the normal health benefits associated with regular exercise, plus a few that you can only get through quick, repeated micro-workouts throughout your day.
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Why Should You Walk for 5 Minutes Every Hour?
Improve Your Health
Walking, like most forms of exercise, is incredibly beneficial for your health. Particularly for those who sit for lengthy, uninterrupted periods throughout the day, getting up and walking around for five minutes each hour reduces the risk of developing atherosclerosis, a buildup of plaque in the arteries. It also decreases your chances of becoming diabetic, depressed, and/or obese, compared with those who move around often. Another study showed that while “…standing more may not be enough to offset the dangers of sitting for too long…short bursts of light activities, such as walking, cleaning and gardening, can boost the longevity of people who are sedentary for more than half of their day.”
What does this mean in practice? If you have to sit for long periods for work, standing up and walking every 30-60 minutes can give you health benefits even beyond those of taking a walk before or after work.
Reduce Your Risk of Death – Really!
Studies have shown that people who sit for prolonged periods of time have a higher risk of death from all causes. The more time people sat, the higher their risks. This was true across age, gender, body mass index and several other factors. Both total time sitting AND length of uninterrupted sitting time were risk factors. There was no one specific cutoff time, but as sitting time increased, so did the risks. This means that even if you have to sit for work, getting up and taking breaks can improve your health and lower your risk of death!
Studies have recommended getting up every 30 minutes, which is a great goal but can be difficult for many people.
Increase Your Energy
If you struggle to maintain a constant stream of energy throughout the day, then this kind of exercise may be exactly the solution you’ve been looking for. A quick walking workout has been shown to give you more energy than half a cup of coffee, plus it’s zero-calories and good for your health!
Instead of having to psych yourself up to change into workout clothes, drive to the gym, spend an hour working out publicly, and so on, you can instead hop up every hour and take a brisk walk around the office, home, or neighborhood. The mental exhaustion that you may be experiencing just thinking about exercising will be eradicated by the time it takes you to finish reading this article!
It may seem counterintuitive that walking can actually increase your energy, but a leisurely walk may be just what you need. When you feel your energy flagging as you stare at the computer screen, try getting a glass of water, talking to a coworker, or just taking a quick lap around the office.
Reduce Food Cravings
One study found that participants who walked for five minutes each hour had reduced food cravings, particularly towards the end of the day. Thus, micro-exercising may be especially beneficial for those who are undergoing a weight loss program, who struggle with portion control, or who want to ensure they are not eating unhealthily when they start to crave sugar or junk foods in the late afternoon and early evening.
Improve Your Mood
People who are mostly sedentary — meaning they spend the majority of their time sitting — have an increased risk of developing depression, which can be a chronic condition. The Mayo Clinic reports that “working out and other forms of physical activity can definitely ease symptoms of depression or anxiety and make you feel better. Exercise may also help keep depression and anxiety from coming back once you’re feeling better.”
The longer you spend sitting and staring at your screen, the more likely you’ll be to lose productivity or get sidetracked. Many productivity gurus recommend setting periodic alarms during the day that can break you out of an unproductive spell. Getting up and walking gives you additional mood and energy-boosting benefits, and forces you to physically disconnect with the situation that may be causing you to get distracted.
Hit the Reset Button
Ever felt distracted, listless, and unfocused during your 9-5 job? What about finding yourself lacking the motivation to complete your daily chores around the house? By chunking your work or chores into easy to manage 50- to 55-minute blocks with a walking break at the beginning and end, you’ll find yourself thinking and acting with more clarity and purpose. Walking helps you get creative and reduce stress, which can give you a push to get more done rather than fall into time-wasting and distractions.
How Can You Incorporate 5 Minute Walks into Your Day?
There are a number of ways to make sure that five minute walks become a part of your regular daily routine.
Set an Alarm
Setting a timer on your phone or on your computer can help you remember that it is time for your five-minute walk. It can also help snap you out of distractions or a rut you may be in. Combined with the mood and energy boosts from your walk, you’ll get back ready to go.
Walk at the Same Time Every Hour
Set your alarm for the same time every hour so that your walking becomes a regular part of your routine. This makes walking a habit, instead of something you have to remember to go out and do.
Chunk Your Work or Household Chores
Pair your new micro-walk routine with another effective efficiency-boosting system: the Pomodoro Technique. Lifehacker describes the technique: “When faced with any large task or series of tasks, break the work down into short, timed intervals (called “Pomodoros”) that are spaced out by short breaks. This trains your brain to focus for short periods and helps you stay on top of deadlines or constantly-refilling inboxes.” It’s been proven to help people be more productive and just so happens to match up perfectly with five minutes of walking each hour.
Take a few minutes at the beginning of the day to break your tasks down into manageable chunks. Try to make each chunk last between 45 minutes to an hour. Then, at the end of that time period, do your five minutes of walking. You’ll be able to slide back into work easier because you’ll have already planned out where to pick back up.
Listen to a Podcast or Book as You Walk
Load a great podcast or book onto your device of choice, and listen to a chapter or section each time you walk. You may even find yourself walking more just to see what happens next. If you’re sticking to 5-minute walks, there are a variety of very short podcasts that focus on one piece of advice. Alternatively, listen to music while walking for a short pick-me-up.
Get a Walking Buddy
Your new walking buddy is also going to be your accountability partner. He or she is there to make sure you’re doing your five minutes per hour, and you are there to make sure that s/he is getting exercise too!
If you’re at work, you may be able to take a coffee break or meet a friend around the water cooler on a regular basis to add accountability. It can be a little tougher at work to get active, but the productivity gains from your energy, improved mood and creativity can more than make up for it.
Match Your Walks with Daily Tasks
Walk for five minutes while you’re getting the mail. Walk instead of driving to run an errand. Walk to bring the dog outside (if you’re at home). Walk to bring a package to the building across the street (if you’re at work). Don’t look for excuses not to walk, but look for excuses to take a short walk whenever you have time.
There are plenty of inventive ways to ensure that you’re spending five minutes each hour walking! If you’re sitting for long periods, whether it’s at work in front of a computer or at home in front of the TV, make sure that you’re taking mini walks every 30-60 minutes!
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