Healthy living

Breaks from sitting are good for the heart

Breaks from sitting are good for the heart Lower your risk of heart disease, study finds

Taking regular breaks from sitting - even for as little as one minute at a time - is good for your heart as well as your waistline, according to a new study.

People who took regular screen breaks had an average waistline 4.1 cm less than people who sat around the most, and also had lower levels of blood fats, bad cholesterol and other markers of heart disease.

Australian researchers compared the total amount of time people spent sitting down with well-known markers of heart disease risk, and the effect of regular breaks.

More than 4500 men and women wore a small device called an accelerometer on their hips during working hours, seven days a week, which monitored the amount and intensity of walking and running activity.

Waist circumference, blood pressure, cholesterol, triglyceride levels and C-reactive protein concentrations which can indicate a higher risk of heart disease were also measured.

Sitting around for prolonged periods of time without a break was associated with larger waistlines, lower levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol, higher levels of blood fats and C-reactive protein, an important marker of inflammation and heart disease.

However, the study also found that, even in people who spent a long time sitting down, the more breaks they took during this time, the smaller their waists and the lower the levels of C-reactive protein.

Study leader Dr Genevieve Healy, of the School of Population Health at the University of Queensland, said: "The benefits of regular participation in moderate-to-vigorous intensity exercise are well accepted scientifically and by the general public.

"However, the potential adverse health impact of prolonged sitting (which is something that we do on average for more than half of our day), is only just being realised.

"Our research showed that even small changes, which could be as little as standing up for one minute, might help to lower this health risk.

"It is likely that regular breaks in prolonged sitting time could be readily incorporated into the working environment without any detrimental impact on productivity, although this still needs to be determined by further research. 'Stand up, move more, more often' could be used as a slogan to get this message across."

The findings are published online in the European Heart Journal.

This article was published on Wed 12 January 2011

Image © Olga Gabai -

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