Being seated for long periods of time is constantly being described as harmful to health. Indeed, life is characterised by movement, and death, by stillness, which makes us wonder as to which one are we the closest to, in terms of our daily activities. While the current trends in society might be painting a gloomy picture, a new study seems to bring hope to our landscape, suggesting that the impaired vascular flow on account of sitting for too long can be countered by going for a ten-minute walk. The paper is published in Experimental Physiology.
Sitting has been linked with increased risk to develop colon, endometrial and lung cancer. Another recent study hinted at a possible association between sitting and Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease. Even the new study mentions how long hours spent sitting could impair vascular functions. Fortunately, it appears that we can reverse this one particular negative impact with a short walk of ten minutes.
“It’s easy for all of us to be consumed by work and lose track of time, subjecting ourselves to prolonged periods of inactivity,” says author Jaume Padilla, assistant professor of nutrition and exercise physiology at the University of Missouri in the US. “However, our study found that when you sit for 6 straight hours, or the majority of an 8-hour work day, blood flow to your legs is greatly reduced. We also found that just 10 minutes of walking after sitting for an extended time reversed the detrimental consequences.”
The researchers were led to this conclusion after they compared the vascular functions of volunteers before and following a 6-hour period of sitting at a desk. It was found that an artery located in the lower leg known as the popliteal had a significantly reduced blood flow because of the sedentariness.
“When you have decreased blood flow, the friction of the flowing blood on the artery wall, called shear stress, is also reduced,” said Padilla. “Moderate levels of shear stress are good for arterial health, whereas low levels of shear stress appear to be detrimental and reduce the ability of the artery to dilate. Dilation is a sign of vascular health. The more the artery can dilate and respond to stimuli, the healthier it is.”
On the other hand, the blood flow was restored to normal levels after 10 minutes of walking.
The study has its limitations though: it involved only 11 healthy young men, and is thus not representative of society as a whole. However, the hint it carries that the disadvantages of sedentariness can be overturned adds to a growing body of similar findings.