Short hourly walks reverse ill effects of sitting

"American adults sit for approximately eight hours a day," Saurabh Thosar said.
By Brooks Hays  |  Sept. 8, 2014 at 12:59 PM
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BLOOMINGTON, Ind., Sept. 8 (UPI) -- In recent years, the evidence that long hours sitting at a desk or on a couch is bad for one's health has mounted. But new research out of Indiana University suggests a quick five-minute walk every hour can reverse the ill-effects of a person's hunched posture and sedentary nine-to-five routine.

Not only has research shown sitting to be bad for one's waistline, blood pressure and cholesterol, some studies have even strongly correlated sitting with reduced life expectancy. In other words: the more you sit, the sooner you'll expire.

But according to the work of Saurabh Thosar, now a postdoctoral researcher at Oregon Health & Science University, walking -- regular and brief -- offer a simple solution.

While a doctoral candidate at Indiana's School of Public Health-Bloomington, Thosar led an experiment that looked at sitting's ill effects -- specifically at the consequences for blood flow, or arterial function. Participants who sat for three hours showed declining arterial function, as expected. But those who walked for five minutes once each hour were able to mostly mitigate that decline. The study included only healthy, non-obese men, ages 20 to 35.

"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 in a press release. "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."

"American adults sit for approximately eight hours a day," Thosar added. "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 will be published in the next issue of the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

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