Sit at Your Own Risk

Spending your entire workday sitting down can impair vascular health.

Across the country, many employees sit at their desks for most of an eight-hour workday. As technology creates an increase in sedentary lifestyles, the impact of sitting on vascular health is a rising concern. To put it bluntly, sitting down for six straight hours impairs vascular function, according to researchers from the University of Missouri School of Medicine.

But there is good news: walking for just 10 minutes after a prolonged period of sitting can help restore vascular health.

Researchers compared the vascular function of 11 healthy young men before and after a period of prolonged sitting. Findings indicated that blood flow in the popliteal—an artery in the lower leg—was greatly reduced after sitting at a desk for six hours.

Participants then took a short walk. Researchers found that 10 minutes of self-paced walking could restore the impaired vascular function and improve blood flow.

When you have decreased blood flow, the friction of the flowing blood on the artery wall, called shear stress, is also reduced. 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.

More research is needed to determine if repeated periods of reduced vascular function with prolonged sitting lead to long-term vascular complications, researchers added.