Regular walks reduce risk of clogged arteries - study

  • 28/06/2017
Breaking up long periods of sitting with brisk walks, and a 30 minute walk, can lead to better health outcomes.
Breaking up long periods of sitting with brisk walks, and a 30 minute walk, can lead to better health outcomes. Photo credit: Getty

Regular brisk walks and a longer one of 30 minutes each day significantly lower levels of fatty acids that lead to clogged arteries, Otago University researchers have found.

Otago scientists previously established that office workers taking brisk walks for two minutes every half hour lower their blood glucose and insulin levels.

The university's latest study shows this sort of activity also reduces triglyceride (lipid) levels when measured in response to a meal consumed around 24 hours after starting the activity.

High levels of triglycerides are linked to hardening of the arteries and other cardiovascular conditions.

Study lead author Dr Meredith Peddie says a randomised crossover trial involved 36 participants completing four two-day interventions:

  • Prolonged sitting,
  • Prolonged sitting with 30 minutes of continuous walking at the end of the first day,
  • Sitting with two minutes of moderate intensity walking every 30 minutes,
  • A combination of the continuous walking and regular activity breaks.

Blood levels of triglycerides, which are non-esterified fatty acids (otherwise known as free fatty acids), glucose and insulin responses were measured over five hours on the second day.

Dr Peddie says the results show that, overall, short regular walking breaks and 30 minutes of continuous physical activity - and especially the two combined - appear to have good potential to improve people's metabolic health.

She says researchers believe the study, published in the Journal of Clinical Lipidology, contains an important health message.

"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.

"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."