If you’ve had any experience sitting at a desk and staring at a computer screen for eight hours a day, you know that the effects it has on your body are not very good. Slouching, headaches, lower back pain, carpal tunnel, etc.
But did you know prolonged periods of sitting have also been associated with higher cholesterol levels and greater waist circumference, which can lead to cardiovascular and metabolic disease?
Fortunately, a new study shows that there’s a very simple way to combat these negative effects: taking a walk.
That’s right. According to researchers at Indiana University, just a 5-minute stroll for every one hour of sitting could reduce the damage to leg arteries and reduce the risk for heart disease.
Researchers looked at 11 healthy men between the ages of 20 and 35 who sat for three hours without moving their legs. At the beginning of the study, and the one-, two-, and three-hour marks, they measured femoral artery function using a blood pressure cuff and ultrasound technology.
The results showed that the function of the femoral artery was decreased by as much as 50% after just one hour of sitting. But study participants who walked for five minutes during each hour of sitting did not experience a drop in arterial function, suggesting that the increase in muscle activity and blood flow was beneficial.
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, postdoctoral researcher at Oregon Health & Science University, who led the study as a doctoral candidate at IU’s School of Public Health-Bloomington, in a release.
He continues, “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.”
Taking a break from your desk can be beneficial for more than just your circulation and cholesterol. A change of scenery and a chance to stretch will benefit your entire body.
The most common complaint among office workers is lower back pain. Improper posture, leaning forward towards a screen, and unsuitable office furniture can all put too much strain on the muscles and vertebrae in the lower back, causing discomfort.
One solution for this, of course, is to find a good office chair that will have you sitting comfortably all day.
“A good ergonomic chair should have lumbar adjustment for both height and depth in order to get the proper fit in order to support the inward curve of the lower back,” explains Roy Wright, Ergonomic Chair Specialist at SitBetter.
But a nice walk will help to alleviate your back pain, as well. Standing and stretching will take some pressure off of the vertebrae in your lower back, and help stretch the muscles in that area, as well.
It doesn’t take very long, but even a short break from sitting at your desk will make a big difference.
“American adults sit for approximately eight hours a day,” Thosar said. “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.”