Exercising in the office could be the key to longer life - study

man biking in the office
Exercising in the office could help reduce your risk of heart disease by 15 percent, according to a new study. Photo credit: Getty.

Exercising in the office could help reduce your risk of heart disease by 15 percent, according to a new study.

Researchers led by the University of Stirling in Scotland have discovered that employers can help their staff reduce their heart disease risk by introducing specialised exercise bikes into the workplace. While many of us might raise our eyebrows at the thought, the findings are fascinating.

Just 18 minutes of cycling on the bikes each week will improve employees' general health and fitness and could reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.

The research team recruited 25 previously inactive employees and introduced the special bikes into offices in Stirling and Swansea, Wales, and asked the exercise group participants to cycle for 8 minutes and 40 seconds twice a week for six weeks. The exercise routine - known as reduced-exertion high-intensity interval training (REHIT) - allows for staff to wear their work clothes as they are unlikely to sweat too much.

"Many people do not perform enough exercise and, therefore, are at increased risk of developing diseases including heart disease and type 2 diabetes. One of the most commonly reported reasons for not meeting physical activity recommendations is a lack of time - with people leading busy lives, spending long working days sitting at desks, and commuting by car," said Dr Niels Vollaard, who led the study.

"REHIT involves easy pedalling on a stationary bike, interspersed with two short bursts of high-intensity cycling. It is time-efficient and perceived as being manageable by our research participants."

Maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max) - which measures the maximum amount of oxygen a person can use during intense exercise - was recorded at the beginning and at the end of the study and a significant improvement was discovered in the exercise group.

"We found that the REHIT routine was effective at improving the general health of the research participants," Dr Vollaard explained. "VO2max increased by around 10 per cent, compared to the control group, which equates to a risk reduction for getting heart disease in later life of 15 per cent."

The findings were published in BMC Public Health.