While your indoor cycling class may work up a hearty sweat, a new study suggests that simply taking the stairs and walking throughout your day may be better for your health.

The findings show that if you burn the same amount of calories, standing and walking over the course of a day is better than an hour of intense exercise when it comes to improving cholesterol and preventing diabetes.

"Get out of your chair as much as you can, take the stairs instead of the elevator, go by bike," and leave your car at home, said Hans Savelberg, study author and associate professor at Maastricht University Medical Centre in the Netherlands.

The research team followed 18 healthy adults ages 19 to 24, who performed three separate exercise regimens over the course of the study. In the first, they sat for 14 hours with no exercise. In the second, participants sat for 13 hours and performed one hour of vigorous cycling. In the third, participants sat for eight hours, then walked for four hours and stood for another two, with energy expenditures matching the intense hour of cycling.

The researchers found that the subjects had improved insulin sensitivity and lower cholesterol levels after walking and standing compared to no exercise. And those subjects who walked and stood also improved insulin sensitivity and reduced cholesterol more than the intense exercise group.

"If you exercise for half an hour and are sedentary for the rest of the day, that represents an unhealthy lifestyle," said Savelberg. "Long periods of non-sitting at a low intensity level should be classified as an active lifestyle."

Findings appeared online Wednesday in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS One.