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Can You Combat 8 Hours of Sitting a Day?

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Stand up for your health: A new study finds taking just five minutes to stand up and walk around every hour could prevent some of the health issues associated with prolonged sitting. Previous research has identified 35 different chronic conditions and diseases including cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, and death, caused by too much chair time.

In the study, published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, a small group of men just sat for three hours or sat for three hours with a break every hour to walk on a treadmill for five minutes. Researchers found that just one hour of sitting without breaks impaired the major artery of the leg’s ability to expand by about 50 percent. Meanwhile, participants who took short walking breaks didn’t experience any change in their arterial function over three hours.

“Looking at an artery in the leg is a good indicator of what’s going on in other arteries in the body,” says James Levine, M.D., Ph.D., co-director of the Mayo Clinic/Arizona State University Obesity Solutions Initiative. “This new study suggests that with excessive sitting blood vessels get damaged, which helps explain why excessive sitting may be so harmful to our health.”

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Levine cautions that the study was small (only 11 participants) and only included men. “Still, it’s a brick of evidence in the fortress of information that suggests we shouldn’t be exposing ourselves to prolonged periods of sitting,” he says. And while it’s too small of a study on which to base a recommendation, Levine offers these words of wisdom: “If you’ve been sitting for an hour you’ve been sitting for too long.”

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