It's one of the most common health risks today. As a matter of fact, you're probably doing it right now while reading this.
Those of us who sit for prolonged periods of time have a higher chance of experiencing negative health conditions due to physical inactivity. While you could certainly schedule a 5-mile run in the middle of your day, the logistics of working that into one's schedule don't always compute.
Well, there might be hope! A recent study by scientists at Indiana University suggests that just three walks of five minutes distributed throughout three hours of prolonged sitting can reverse the harm caused to leg arteries. To put it more simply, just getting up and walking around the block three times a day will do wonders for your health if you sit at a desk all day. Seems pretty easy, right?
The health risks of sitting for long periods of time without taking regular walks have been linked to health conditions such as high cholesterol, obesity, high blood sugar, metabolic syndrome and a larger waist. All of these conditions are associated with metabolic disease and cardiovascular problems.
So why does sitting cause problems in the first place? Research suggests that when you stay in a stagnant state (sitting), it causes blood to pool in areas where there is no active muscle usage. The result from this inactivity leads to affecting the endothelial function of the arteries, a condition similar to hypertension, hypercholesterolaemia, diabetes, septic shock and Bechcet's disease.
For the study, researchers had two separate groups of six males sit at a desk for three hours. The first group sat without moving their lower extremities for the entire 3-hour duration. The second group was made to walk on a treadmill at fixed times throughout the 3-hour period.
After measuring the the endothelial function of the femoral artery immediately after the 3-hour period, researchers found that the group that sat for 3 hours straight experienced a dramatic drop in blood flow of up to 50% compared to baseline readings while the group that had walking breaks did not experience any drop in blood flow.
"American adults sit for approximately eight hours a day," said researcher Dr. Saurabh Thosar.
"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."
So what can you do to make sure you're staying healthy while sitting at the desk all day?
Instead of thinking about these 5-minute walks as actual 'walks,' consider finding a coffee shop nearby and commit to going and getting a tea three times a day, or send this article to a co-worker and ask them to join you for a walk around the block a few times a day.