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Study shows frequent breaks from sitting may improve heart health, weight loss


Making sure to take regular breaks from sitting throughout the day, even if they only last a minute, could help your waistline and heart, according to findings published today in the European Heart Journal.

In the study (subscription required), researchers analyzed data from nearly 4,800 people who participated in the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Participants wore tracking devices, called accelerometers, for seven days during their waking hours. The researchers also measured volunteers' waists, blood pressure, cholesterol levels and the concentration of a protein associated with inflammation called C-reactive protein.

Their results showed prolonged periods of sedentary time, even in people who also spent some time in moderate-to-vigorous exercise, were associated with higher levels of blood fats and markers of insulin resistance. But individuals who took more breaks had smaller waistlines and lower levels of C-reactive protein. Lead author Genevieve Healy, PhD, said in a release:

Our research highlights the importance of considering prolonged sedentary time as a distinct health risk behaviour that warrants explicit advice in future public health guidelines. In particular, the findings are likely to have implications for settings where prolonged sitting is widespread, such as in offices.

Prolonged sedentary time is likely to increase with future technological and social innovations, and it is important to avoid prolonged periods of sitting and to move more throughout the day. Reducing and regularly breaking up sedentary time may be an important adjunct health message, alongside the well-established recommendation for regular participation in exercise.

To incorporate small breaks into the workday, the researchers recommended standing up while talking on the phone, walking to see colleagues rather than e-mailing or calling, holding standing meetings, taking the stairs instead the elevator and using bathrooms on a different floor.

Previously: Series looks at the physiology of sedentary behavior and Stanford hosts conference on the science of sedentary behavior
Photo by Jeremy Foo

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