If sitting is the new smoking, this may be an easier fix

The IU Newsroom office space

The IU Newsroom

I walked through shady Dunn Woods on my way to a meeting yesterday and reveled in each peaceful step. IUPUI researcher Steve McKenzie makes a case in this Indianapolis Star article for how bouts of exercise can improve work performance. A new IU study finds, however, that slow, hourly 5-minute walks can do a world of good.

Growing concerns about sitting have launched the phrase “sitting is the new smoking.” Prolonged sitting is associated with risk factors such as higher cholesterol levels and greater waist circumference that can lead to cardiovascular and metabolic disease.

Saurabh Thosar, a postdoctoral researcher at Oregon Health & Science University, led the new study as a doctoral candidate at IU’s School of Public Health-Bloomington. From our news release:

The researchers were able to demonstrate that during a three-hour period, the flow-mediated dilation, or the expansion of the arteries as a result of increased blood flow, of the main artery in the legs was impaired by as much as 50 percent after just one hour. The study participants who walked for five minutes for each hour of sitting saw their arterial function stay the same — it did not drop throughout the three-hour period. Thosar says it is likely that the increase in muscle activity and blood flow accounts for this.

“American adults sit for approximately eight hours a day,” he 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.”

Saurabh Thosar

Saurabh Thosar

I’m not the only one who likes Thosar’s findings — reports about his findings have appeared this week in the Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report, New York Daily News, Shape Magazine and in other major outlets.

More from McKenzie in the Indianapolis Star:

Humans historically have been physically motivated creatures, but the modern office is heavily sedentary.

“When people do have the opportunity to get up and move around, it helps them be refreshed,” he said. “It allows them to physiologically tolerate stress better.”

Carol Kennedy-Armbruster, an assistant professor in the School of Public Health-Bloomington who was not involved in Thosar’s study, said in the Star article that a one-hour workout in the morning or evening may not be adequate.

“A lot of new research on sitting time has told us that we need to do more than just go to the gym for an hour,” she said. “The reality is that people need to move more throughout the day. That changes how you start to look at it.”

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