Walking 5 minutes each hour can reverse the harm to leg arteries

The harm to leg arteries caused by sitting for hours can be easily reversed with hourly 5-minute walks, according to new research published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, the official journal of the American College of Sports Medicine.

Sitting for prolonged periods is associated with risk factors for cardiovascular and metabolic disease, such as higher cholesterol levels and greater waist circumference.

Because muscles are slackened when sitting, they do not contribute to pumping blood to the heart. This causes blood to pool in the legs, damaging the endothelial function of arteries and impairing blood vessels’ ability to expand.

Studies and trials about exercise

In a new study, 11 healthy, non-obese men aged between 20 and 35 years took part in two randomized trials.

In the first trial, the participants were required to sit for 3 hours without moving their legs. How well their femoral artery – the large artery in the thigh – was functioning was measured using a blood pressure cuff and ultrasound technology. Readings were taken before the study commenced, and at the 1, 2 and 3-hour marks.

In the second experiment, the men again sat for 3 hours, but also walked on a treadmill set at a speed of 2 mph for 5 minutes at the 30-minute, 1.5-hour and 2.5-hour marks. Again, the researchers measured how well the femoral arteries of the participants were functioning.

The researchers found that, while sitting, the dilation and expansion of the participants’ arteries were impaired by up to 50% after just the first hour. However, there was no decrease in arterial function among the participants who walked for 5 minutes each hour. The researchers think this is because the increase in muscle activity aided blood flow.

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