Maximum Wellness, Episode 98: Short Burst Exercising Reduces Prolonged Sitting Risks


In the coming months, new research will be presented in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise that will corroborate one of the benefits of acute exercise (single session) – its ability to lower the post meal (postprandial) plasma triglyceride (blood fat) response to a high fat meal, as well as, increase fat utilization (oxidation).

To do so, the acute exercise session must be able to overcome what’s termed as “exercise resistance.” That’s not to be confused with “anabolic resistance,” or the inability of a senior individual to repair, as quickly and effectively as, their younger counterpart, without intervention.

It appears from the upcoming research that the exercise duration must account for at least 5,000 steps or the metabolic equivalent. From previous step-count research, we’ve learned that obese individuals – a body mass index of 30 or greater – tend to take between 4600 to 6,000 total daily steps, irrespectively of intensity.

Since the research paper is sequestered, until publication, I’m not able provide any further details, until its release date. However, I can go back to October 2020 to research – Hourly 4-s Sprints Prevent Impairment of Postprandial Fat Metabolism from Inactivity – which appeared in the same publication.

Researchers from the Human Performance Laboratory, Department of Kinesiology and Health Education, University of Texas at Austin concluded that, “that hourly very short bouts (4 seconds) of maximal intensity cycle sprints interrupting prolonged sitting can significantly lower the next day’s postprandial plasma triglyceride response and increase fat oxidation, after a high-fat meal in healthy young adults.”

Given that these improvements, comment the researchers, “were elicited from only 160 seconds of non-fatiguing exercise per day, it raises the question, as to what is the least amount of exercise that can acutely improve fat metabolism and other aspects of health.”

The Texas researchers point to prior research that stated that in order to overcome the negative effects – like reducing the rise in post-meal triglycerides (risk to cardiovascular disease) of prolonged sitting, an individual had to exercise for 60 to 75 minutes per day at a moderate intensity.
Using eight healthy, untrained and recreationally active subjects – four men and four women – the researchers looked, “to determine if very brief (4-s) cycling performed at maximal intensity in blocks of five repetitions per hour is effective in counteracting the effects of prolonged sitting on postprandial lipid (fat) metabolism.”

The participants sat for 8 hours. Then, their postprandial metabolism was measured the next day (SIT), which was compared – with an exercise trial of five repeat-cycle sprints (inertial load ergometer) – lasting only 4 seconds each – performed every hour for 8 hours (SPRINTS). Taken in context, each hour, 20 seconds of sprint exercise was performed totaling 160 seconds of SPRINTS for the entire 8-hour day.

Prior to the testing, resting metabolic rate studies were performed to asses caloric intake to maintain a stable body weight – with an additional 20% of calories was added to account for exercise. The morning of each trial, the participants took a high-fat/glucose tolerance test (HFGTT) – followed by sitting for six hours – with a fasted blood sample taken.

The tests extended at 2, 4, and 6 hours, after the ingestion of a high-fat and glucose shake. Fat oxidation rates were determined at baseline, 2, 4, and six hours from expired gases postprandially (after a meal).
The investigation determined that hourly 4-second “all-out” sprints – performed five times per hour on the stationary cycle – while sitting for 8-hours reduced the next day’s postprandial plasma triglyceride incremental by 31%, compared with sitting for 8 continuous hours.

Furthermore, the sprints elevated fat oxidation by an average of 43% over the duration of HFGTT – corresponding to a large effect size increase compared with SIT.

The Texas researchers commented that, “the clinical significance of these findings is centered on reductions in postprandial triglyceride incremental AUC (under the curve) and increased fat oxidation, which likely lead to improved cardiometabolic health.”

The take-away message is for those people, who indulge in high fat meals with a potential rise in cardio-risk triglycerides – especially at night close to bed, when heart attacks tend to occur – you might consider talking with your physician, if you are a candidate to try this short burst, hourly exercise routine, if you’re forced to sit for extended periods of time on a regular basis.