Many recent studies have shown just how bad sitting for long periods of time can be for one's health. But when a job or other activity forces you to sit for hours on end, what can you do about it?
According to a new study out of Indiana University, people in such a situation can negate some of these effects by taking just a few short walks.
For every three hours of sitting, the researchers said that three five-minute walks — as slow as 2 mph was effective — can help restore adequate blood flow in leg arteries. So, essentially, getting up once an hour for a five-minute walk, which could be for a jaunt to the restroom or kitchen for water, can reverse the negative effects of sitting.
Prolonged sitting, according to the news release from the university, pools blood in legs and impairs endothelial function, which it describes as an artery's ability to expand from blood flow.
"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," said Saurabh Thosar, who began the research as a doctoral student at Indiana University before graduating to conduct postdoc research at Oregon Health & Science University. "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."
Participants in the experiment who walked three times for five minutes each time during a three-hour period did not see impairment in endothelial function like those who just sat, according to the research. Thosar said he thinks this due to keeping up some muscle activity and blood flow.
"American adults sit for approximately eight hours a day," Thosar said in a statement. "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."
These findings were published in the journal of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.
Think you'll be OK with sitting all day if you just work out for a significant amount of time at some point? Not so fast. According to Runner's World, other research shows that sitting for 10 hours after an hour-long run in the morning will only leave you 20 percent of the activity's health benefits.
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