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Short Breaks Counter Negative Effects of Sitting

Short Breaks Counter Negative Effects of Sitting

New research helps to ease the stress that sitting several hours a day can be detrimental to one’s health as a new study suggests even slow walks can reverse harm.

Indiana University researchers found that three easy — one could even say slow — five minute walks can reverse harm caused to leg arteries during three hours of prolonged sitting.

Emerging research suggests sitting for long periods of time, like many people do daily at their jobs, is associated with risk factors such as higher cholesterol levels and greater waist circumference that can lead to cardiovascular and metabolic disease.

When people sit, slack muscles do not contract to effectively pump blood to the heart.

Blood can pool in the legs and affect the function of arteries, or the ability of blood vessels to expand from increased blood flow.

Experts hail the new study as the first experimental evidence of these effects.

“There is plenty of epidemiological evidence linking sitting time to various chronic diseases and linking breaking sitting time to beneficial cardiovascular effects, but there is very little experimental evidence,” Thosar said.

“We have shown that prolonged sitting impairs blood vessel function, which is an early marker of cardiovascular disease, and that breaking sitting time prevents the decline in that function.”

The researchers were able to demonstrate that during a three-hour period, the flow-mediated dilation, or the expansion of the arteries as a result of increased blood flow, of the main artery in the legs was impaired by as much as 50 percent after just one hour.

The study participants who walked for five minutes each hour of sitting saw their arterial function stay the same — it did not drop throughout the three-hour period.

Thosar says it is likely that the increase in muscle activity and blood flow accounts for this.

“American adults sit for approximately eight hours a day,” he said.

“The impairment in endothelial vessel function is significant after just one hour of sitting. It is interesting to see that light physical activity can help in preventing this impairment.”

The study involved 11 non-obese, healthy men between the ages of 20-35 who participated in two randomized trials. In one trial they sat for three hours without moving their legs.

Researchers used a blood pressure cuff and ultrasound technology to measure the functionality of the femoral artery at baseline and again at the one-, two- and three-hour mark.

In the second trial, the men sat during a three-hour period but also walked on a treadmill for five minutes at a speed of two mph at the 30-minute mark, 1.5-hour mark, and 2.5-hour mark. Researchers measured the functionality of the femoral artery at the same intervals as in the other trial.

The study, “Effect of Prolonged Sitting and Breaks in Sitting Time on Endothelial Function” has been published online in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

Source: University of Indiana

Office workers walking photo by shutterstock.

Short Breaks Counter Negative Effects of Sitting

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Short Breaks Counter Negative Effects of Sitting. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 26, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 9 Sep 2014)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.