Office sitters of the world, rejoice—you can continue to enjoy that comfy swivel chair, as long as you take a five-minute walk every hour.
That’s according to a new Indiana University study that demonstrated the negative effects of sitting for three hours straight, and then showed the changes were prevented when the subjects interrupted their sitting with brief, moderately paced walks. The study will be published in the Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise journal.
Researchers used the main artery in the leg to measure endothelial function, which is a marker of cardiovascular health. As a press release about the study explains, “When people sit, slack muscles do not contract to effectively pump blood to the heart. Blood can pool in the legs and affect the endothelial function of arteries, or the ability of blood vessels to expand from increased blood flow.”
Spending three uninterrupted hours on a firmly cushioned chair reduced the subjects’ endothelial function. After just an hour, the artery’s expansion was impaired by as much as 50%. But walks at the 30-minute, 1.5-hour and 2.5-hour marks, for five minutes at a pace of two miles an hour, prevented any impairment from occurring.
For sitting enthusiasts, the results should provide some good ammunition in the ongoing debate about the effectiveness of standing desks. The study’s lead researcher, Saurabh Thosar, tells Quartz that while the study didn’t test the effects of standing still, “walking might be better because of the continuous muscle activity” and increased energy expenditure required for even a light-intensity walk.