Five Minutes of Walking, Hours of Benefits
We’ve always been big advocates of walking and moving at work. Every WCS employee has an adjustable standing desk and access to treadmill stations, and our own internal wellness program (EnergEEE) offers movement challenges every year. It’s a huge part of our culture.
A recent study featured in the New York Times says that as little as five minutes of walking per hour energizes employees, reduces hunger cravings, and lifts spirits without negatively impacting productivity.
The study invited 30 adult sedentary office workers to a university clinic to measure baseline health, lifestyle, and cognitive metrics. Then, on three subsequent visits to the clinic, each volunteer simulated a six-hour workday:
- During one visit, the volunteers sat for the whole time with no interruptions, except for bathroom breaks.
- During another, they walked moderately for 30 minutes at the start of their experimental day, and then sat for the next five and a half hours with no additional scheduled breaks.
- During a third visit, the volunteers sat for most of the six hours, but began each hour with five minutes of moderate walking, using treadmills at the clinic.
At the start and end of each session, the researchers drew blood to check levels of stress hormones. And periodically throughout each day, volunteers numerically reported their levels of mood, energy, fatigue and appetites. The volunteers also repeated the computerized testing of their thinking skills at the close of each session.
On almost all measures, the subjects’ ratings of how they were feeling rose when they did not sit for six uninterrupted hours. They said they felt more energetic throughout the day if they had been active, regardless whether that activity was bunched into a single longish walk at the start of the day or distributed into multiple brief breaks.
Positive Impact of Brief Breaks
There were no differences on the scores on the cognitive tests, whether they sat all day or got up and moved. Stress hormones also remained steady during each visit. On other measures, though, the five-minute walks produced powerful results over the concentrated 30-minute morning walking session. When the workers rose most often, they reported:
- Greater happiness
- Less fatigue
- Less craving for food
- Feelings of vigor also tended to increase throughout the day (while they often had plateaued by early afternoon after walking only once in the morning)