One Easy Way to Offset the Negative Effects of Sitting

Small amounts of time spent walking may help reap big health benefits


Good news for those who spend a majority of their work day seated: a new study in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise suggests that some of the damaging effects associated with prolonged periods of sitting can likely be deterred with short, periodic bouts of walking.

Researchers at Indiana University conducted two randomized trials with 12 non-obese men. The first trial required the subjects to sit on a cushioned chair without moving their legs for three hours. The second trial followed the same procedure, except after 30 minutes, 90 minutes and 150 minutes the participants stood up and walked on a treadmill at a pace of 2 mph for five minutes.

The results: data from the first trial indicated that the expandability of arteries in the men’s legs decreased by as much as 50 percent after just one hour spent sitting. On the other hand, during the second trial no such decrease was detected.

“We have shown that prolonged sitting impairs endothelial function, which is an early marker of cardiovascular disease, and that breaking sitting time prevents the decline in that function," said Saurabh Thosar, the study’s lead researcher at IU's School of Public Health-Bloomington and a postdoctoral researcher at Oregon Health & Science University.

In other words, although these are only the results of just one small study, taking a break to get up and walk around every hour or so helps to maintain healthy arterial function. As a result, more movement spread throughout your day may help deter some of the negative health effects that are associated with prolonged periods of sitting, like heart disease, obesity, high cholesterol levels and impaired mobility.

"American adults sit for approximately eight hours a day," said Thosar. "The impairment in endothelial function is significant after just one hour of sitting. It is interesting to see that light physical activity can help in preventing this impairment."

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