January 14, 2011

Want Smaller Waistline? Take a Break

By Rhonda Craig, Ivanhoe Health Correspondent

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- A new study shows that getting up and taking a break from work is not just good for your heart but also for your waistline.

Researchers found that there's a connection between the amount of breaks people take while sitting for prolonged periods and various indicators of risks for heart disease, diabetes, and inflammatory processes that can play a role in blocked arteries.

Dr. Genevieve Healy from the University of Queensland and her colleagues analyzed data from 4,757 people ages 20 years and older. The participants wore an accelerometer, which monitored how intense and how often they walked and ran. The device gave researchers information about the participants' sedentary time and breaks in sedentary time.

"The evidence regarding the links between time spent sedentary and health outcomes has exploded over the last few years. It is important to recognize that even if a person spends an hour each day exercising, what they do for the rest of the day may also be important for their health," Dr. Healy told Ivanhoe.

Researchers found that people who spent longer periods sitting without taking breaks had larger waist circumferences, lower levels of HDL (good cholesterol), and higher levels of triglycerides (blood fats).The study also showed that people who spent a long time sitting but got up for frequent breaks had smaller waists and lower levels of C-reactive protein (an important marker of inflammation).

Researchers found that the top 25 percent of people who took the most breaks had, on average, a 4.1 cm smaller waist circumference than those in the lowest 25 percent.

"Occupational health and safety guidelines recommend regular changes in posture, so as an initial step, people should aim to take at least a short break every 20-30 minutes, but this is just a broad recommendation," Dr. Healy said.

The research also showed that even small changes like standing up for one minute might help lower health risks. Other easy changes people can make in the office include standing up to take calls, walking to deliver a message rather can calling or emailing, or even just taking the stairs when possible.

SOURCE: European Heart Journal, January 12, 2011