A brisk two minute walk could protect office workers from suffering a heart attack or stroke, according to new research.
Sitting for too long increases the risk of cardiovascular disease - an increasing worry for the millions who spend hours at a time in front of a computer.
Now a study has found breaking things up with a short, sharp stroll dramatically reduces harmful blood fats that lead to clogged arteries.
Nutritionist Dr Meredith Peddie, of the University of Otago, New Zealand, said: “We believe there is an important health message here.
“The traditional half-hour block of moderate to vigorous activity is important, but so is limiting long periods of sitting by undertaking regular short bouts of activity throughout the day.”
She said many people spend increasing time sitting during their work days, but breaking things up with regular brisk walks, while also taking daily 30 minute walks, significantly lowers levels of fatty acids that cause blood clots.
Too much time spent sedentary is known to be associated with an increased risk of a cardiovascular disease, diabetes and death from all causes.
The university’s scientists have previously established office workers taking brisk walks for two minutes every half hour lower their blood glucose and insulin levels, reducing their risk of diabetes.
Now, in the first study of its kind, they have shown this sort of activity also reduces triglycerides, or lipids, after a meal consumed around 24 hours beforehand.
High levels of triglycerides are linked to hardening of the arteries and other cardiovascular conditions.
Dr Peddie, who led the study published in the Journal of Clinical Lipidology, said earlier international research had overwhelmingly failed to detect evidence regular walking breaks affect lipid levels.
But this was likely due to the effect generally not being immediate.
So, in the first study of its kind, 36 participants completed four two day interventions at random.
These included prolonged sitting, the latter with 30 minutes of continuous walking at the end of the first day, sitting with two minutes of moderate intensity walking every half hour and a combination of the long and short exercise routine.
Blood levels of triglycerides were measured in the participants over five hours on the second day of the experiment, as well as glucose and insulin responses.
Overall the researchers short regular walking breaks, 30 minutes of continuous physical activity - and especially the two combined - appear to have good potential to improve people’s metabolic health.
Dr Peddie said the objective of the study was to determine whether regular activity breaks affect triglycerides in a delayed manner.
She said: “Regular activity breaks reduce triglycerides in healthy adults. Combining activity breaks with continuous walking results in further improvements.
“Triglyceride response is attenuated by regular activity breaks, when measured about 24 hours after breaks begin.
“Combining regular activity breaks with 30 minutes of continuous walking further improves insulinemic and lipidemic responses.”
Added Dr Peddie: “This approach, if maintained over months or years, may be enough to explain why individuals who regularly break up sedentary time have better cardio-metabolic health outcomes.”