The cardiovascular risk that stems from remaining sedentary for prolonged periods of time (at the office, for example) manifests itself in the form of larger waists, higher blood pressure, higher levels of triglycerides, increased body inflammation and lower levels of 'good' cholesterol.
In developed countries people spend more than half of their day sitting, on an average. To explore the potential connection between short breaks and cardiovascular risks, researchers followed 4757 American men and women aged 20 years and above for three years. All participants had been outfitted with an accelerometer on their hips, to monitor a week's worth of walking, running and sitting routines. Researchers also looked at heart disease-related risk factors, including waist circumference, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. The most sedentary participants were found to sit a little more than 21 hours per day, while the least sedentary sat just under two hours per day. The fewest activity breaks taken over the course of a full week amounted to less than 100, while the most weekly breaks registered at nearly 1,300.
It was found that the longer the participants spent being sedentary the larger was their waist circumference. Overall, those who took the most breaks from sitting (even if they spent a great deal of time being sedentary) were found to have the smallest waists: participants among the top quarter of break frequency had a 1.6-inch smaller waist than those in the bottom quarter. Taking more breaks was also linked to lower levels of C-reactive protein, a marker for problematic inflammation.
The findings suggest that even small changes to a person's activity levels (as little as standing up regularly) might help to lower cardiovascular risk. These changes can be readily incorporated into the person's day-to-day life including the work environment
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