Taking more breaks was also linked to lower levels of C-reactive protein, a marker for problematic inflammation.
The bottom line, according to the researchers: people should be encouraged to take activity breaks.
For example, they suggested that while at work employees consider standing while on the phone or in a meeting, choosing to walk over to colleagues rather than e-mailing or calling them, and using the stairs to access their work area and/or bathrooms.
"I think the recommendations they make for activity breaks all make sense," Mittleman said. "We always advise people to take a walk during their lunch break, for example. And if they can't go outside then walking up and down the corridors works just as well. The point is that for most people basically any kind of activity helps."
Susan Finn, chairwoman of the American Council for Fitness & Nutrition, said that the research team's take on the exercise issue "makes great sense."
"The point here is that setting up huge goals for people to get them to devote huge blocks of time during the day to exercise just doesn't work," she suggested. "People won't do it. Instead, getting people to engage in purposeful activity, trying to motivate small changes, is the way to go."
"And I think we've seen the sense of this over and over again," Finn said, "whether we're talking about reducing fat, reducing sodium or reducing sitting and taking the stairs. It's all about making this stuff, these small changes, doable for people, and the workplace is a very good example, a very good place to start."
For more on physical activity, visit the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.
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