According to a recent study published in the journal Experimental Physiology, taking a short walk can help restore blood flow to legs that are affected by prolonged sitting.
In order to isolate the effects of lengthy stretches of sitting, researchers had 11 young men sit for six hours. The team measured each participant’s blood flow and several other heart factors before the session and after.
To keep food from affecting the results, participants each consumed the same breakfast two hours before the session: quesadillas with a glass of pineapple juice. They also consumed another meal four hours into the sitting session.
Researchers instructed participants not to move their legs while they were sitting, although they were seated in positions that allowed their legs to hang above the floor.
Once the six-hour sitting was over and the researchers had measured each participant’s blood flow, the men took a 10-minute walk. Once they returned, researchers conducted the same measurements again.
The researchers discovered that sitting reduced blood flow in two major leg arteries. In addition, they also found that the men’s calves swelled by about an inch, on average. Researchers discovered that after the 10-minute walk (about 1,100 steps), the blood flow and other measures returned to their pre-sitting levels.
The 11 men were healthy, so researchers note that the results might be different in other groups, such as the elderly or people with heart problems. They add that for people who are less healthy, the ability of blood flow and other measures may take longer and require more exercise in order to return to normal levels.
Dr. William Gray, director of endovascular services at New York-Presbyterian Hospital-Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, believes that the direct effect of exercise increases the levels of nitric oxide. It’s a molecule that triggers blood vessels to open up, which reduces blood friction and allows it to flow easier.
Researchers conclude that the effects of a short walk play an essential role in improving impairments that are seen during long periods of sitting.
Source for Today’s Article:
Willingham, E., “Whistle…and Walk…While You Work,” MedicineNet web site, October 8, 2015; http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=191119.