Associate Professor David Dunstan, from the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, was the study's lead researcher. He stated that, "What this study is showing is that people who sit for long periods, like office workers and call centre staff and drivers, could improve their health by simply breaking up their sitting time with frequent activity breaks," he said.
"Inside this study we used breaks every 20 minutes, just for two-minute activity bouts, and showed that it was, it substantially improved the body's response to a glucose challenge."
Professor Dunstan says people who work sitting at their desks should stand up at least every 30 minutes.
"Our research has shown that sitting for too long for long periods can be hazardous to health," he said. "What this study is actually showing is that if people regularly break it up they're actually producing a more favorable blood glucose profile." "So throughout the day if you get up and move about and contract those muscles you're going to help your body clear that glucose."
He says the study showed walking at a light pace was just as beneficial as walking at a moderate pace.
"In this study we actually compared walking at a light pace, so that's just equivalent to strolling, and then on a subsequent experimental day we got the people to walk at a moderate pace," he said.
"If we introduced the activity breaks it lowered the glucose levels by about 30 per cent." "The important thing is the light was equivalent to moderate intensity activity." "I guess that's good news because if we think about the office context it would be difficult to get up and do a brisk walk every 20 to 30 minutes." "So, light intensity activity appears to be beneficial."
Professor Dunstan says it is in employers' best interests to help keep their employees as healthy as possible.
"In some of the occupational health and safety literature there are already recommendations for employees to try and take a break from the computer screen every 30 minutes to reduce the eye strain," he said.
"I guess what this study is further adding to that is that we need to do some physical movement during those breaks."
Published online in Diabetes Care Feb . 29, 2012