On average, we sit for about seven and a half hours a day – behavior that is harmful to our health and, in the worst cases, even fatal. But a new US study gives hope: You can take countermeasures with just five minutes of exercise.

People in Germany sit too much: an average of around seven and a half hours a day, young adults even nine hours. The “ NDR ” reported on the phenomenon that can be seen in numerous industrialized countries. Hours of sitting are practically “trained” in this country.

Daily sitting starts at school, in the office or at university and extends to our own homes via bus and train journeys. Here we sit at the dining table or on the couch until we finally fall into bed in the evening. Things are much better in other countries around the world: Colombians, Brazilians and Portuguese move the most in the world and sit on average for only around three hours a day.

Numerous studies have shown that western “sitting behavior” is unhealthy and conducive to illness. Sitting has long been considered the “new smoking” and has long-term consequences such as chronic back pain, high blood pressure and diabetes. In addition, the risk of Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular diseases increases.

According to studies, people who sit 12 to 13 hours a day are twice as likely to die prematurely as people who sit little. The effects can be seen on several levels.

First, the metabolism is slowed down by sitting for a long time. Fewer calories are burned, and the risk of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease increases. Since abdominal fat produces messenger substances that can trigger inflammatory processes in the body, the risk of calcified vessels and arteries increases. Last but not least, mobility is inhibited by the inactivity of large muscle groups. It can lead to back pain and poor posture.

Against the background that people in office jobs – apart from a career change – can usually do very little against the fact of constant sitting, a new study by the Columbia University Medical Center has devoted itself to the question of which countermeasures can reduce the risk of death again. The goal of the researchers: to keep the time required for this as low as possible.

As part of their investigations, the scientists simulated a typical everyday office routine. They had test subjects sit for eight hours and continuously measured their blood sugar levels and blood pressure. During the eight hours, they repeatedly asked the subjects to get up and walk on a treadmill at different lengths and frequencies.

The result: The subjects who walked leisurely for five minutes every 30 minutes had lower blood pressure than the comparison groups with less exercise. Compared to the subjects who walked less often, the blood sugar level after a meal was up to 60 percent lower.

As the researchers write in their report, the subjects moved for five minutes at a leisurely pace of around three kilometers per hour, which cannot even be described as “moderate” according to the standards of the Federal Center for Health Education (BZgA). Nonetheless, it is extremely effective.

Just five minutes of exercise every 30 minutes can almost completely compensate for the health damage of sitting and has been proven to reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke. The researchers see the effect in interrupting sedentary periods every 30 minutes, so that inflammatory processes in the body are prevented and the metabolism is kept going.

As the study authors explain, the intensity of individual exercise units can also be increased with just a few measures – and thus have an even more beneficial effect on blood pressure and blood sugar levels as well as general health. Examples are

High blood pressure is one of the greatest risk factors for stroke, heart attack and various types of cardiovascular disease. In Europe alone, 2.2 million women and 1.8 million men die every year as a result of high blood pressure, and small measures alone could reduce it of blood pressure save numerous lives.

In the long term, high blood sugar levels also lead to various diseases that affect the metabolism – including type 2 diabetes. Even slightly elevated blood sugar levels can change the small and large blood vessels in the body and lead to nerve damage. The risk of heart attack or stroke increases significantly.

Lack of exercise is one of the main reasons for the development of type 2 diabetes. Moderate exercise and sport are among the most important measures in treating the disease. Since exercise makes the cells more sensitive to insulin, glucose uptake increases and the blood sugar level falls. In addition to lowering blood pressure and blood sugar levels, regular exercise can:

Accordingly, it is advisable to integrate regular exercise – in addition to the daily walking breaks in the office – into everyday life. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise per week. In order to improve health in the long term, the workload should ideally even be doubled. This corresponds to: 300 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 150 minutes of intensive training per week.