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Why Short Bursts of Exercise are Good for Your Body

We’ve all heard about the perils of a sedentary lifestyle, but why exactly is sitting around so bad and more to the point, what can you do about it?

If you’re working all day it’s easy to forget to get up out of your chair, let alone find half an hour or more to go for a run or do a workout. The good news is that you don’t have to put aside a huge chunk of your day for exercise.

According to Emmanuel Stamatakis, Professor of Physical Activity, Lifestyle and Population Health at the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre, incorporating a few vigorous exercise ‘snacks’ into your day can act as a valid alternative to lengthier structured exercise and reduce much of the harm caused by long periods of sitting.


Why sitting for long periods is so bad

Sitting for long periods of time can lead to a number of long-term health problems, especially if you have bad posture or a desk setup that’s not ergonomically sound.


  • Cardiovascular issues. When you sit still for hours at a time, it reduces your blood flow and increases blood pressure. This means the heart has to work harder to pump blood around your body, and you may be at greater risk of a heart attack.
  • Muscle weakness: Your leg and glute muscles are especially susceptible to wasting away if you sit for long periods of time. This can reduce overall stability and leave you more vulnerable to falls and muscle strain when you do exercise.
  • Back and hip problems: Sitting for too long can make your hip flexors shorter, leading to longer term problems with your hip joints. You can also end up with compression in your spinal discs, especially if you have poor posture when you’re sitting at your desk.
  • Diabetes: Sitting for too long can increase insulin resistance in your body, increasing your risk of Type 2 diabetes. This is down to a reduction in glucose uptake by your muscles, which makes your blood glucose level higher.


The benefits of short periods of intense exercise

Even if you can’t make it to the gym for a lunchtime workout, you can still get the benefits of moving with exercise ‘snacks’, short bursts of movement every 30 minutes or an hour.

This can be as little as three minutes of exercise every thirty minutes, or six minutes every hour. In a recent paper published in Sports Medicine 2020, Stamatakis refers to this as Vigorous Intermittent Lifestyle Physical Activity (VILPA).

If you’re keen to give this a try, here are a few short sharp exercises you can do when you’re working from home or in the office:

  • Walk up and down a few flights of stairs
  • Chase your kids around the backyard for a couple of minutes
  • Vacuum the living room
  • Take a brisk walk around the block


Looking for help to stay safer and healthier? Our workplace rehabilitation management specialists can offer tailored solutions for employers and employees.

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