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Short Walks can Combat Effects of Sitting

Update Date: Sep 08, 2014 12:16 PM EDT

Several studies have found that too much sitting can be bad for overall health. In a new study, researchers are reporting that short walks can combat these side effects. The team from Indiana University calculated that a five-minute walk could reverse the damage that three hours of prolonged sitting can do to the leg arteries.

For this study, the researchers recruited 11 healthy male participants between the ages of 20 and 35. They took part in two randomized trials. In the first one, the participants had to sit for three hours straight without moving their legs. The team measured the participants' femoral artery functionality by using a blood pressure cuff and ultrasound technology. Measurements were taken at the beginning of the study and at the one-hour, two-hour and three-hour marks.

The researchers found that when people sat for prolonged hours without moving, blood can start to pool in the legs. This affects how the arteries function and how the blood flows in and out of vessels.

"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," Saurabh Thosar, a postdoctoral researcher at Oregon Health & Science University, who headed the study as a doctoral candidate at IU's School of Public Health-Bloomington, said. "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."

In the second trial, the participants had to walk on the treadmill for five minutes during their three hour sitting session. The speed of the treadmill was at two miles per hour (mph) at the 30-minute point, 1.5-hour point and 2.5-hour point. The researchers measured the participants' femoral artery functionality at the same intervals as the first trial. They found that five-minute walks were effective in reversing the damage done to the leg arteries.

"American adults sit for approximately eight hours a day," Thosar said reported in the press release. "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."

The study, "Effect of Prolonged Sitting and Breaks in Sitting Time on Endothelial Function," was published in the American College of Sports Medicine's journal, Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

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