Effect of prolonged sitting and breaks in sitting time on endothelial function

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2015 Apr;47(4):843-9. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000000479.


Sitting time (ST) is associated with cardiovascular disease risk factors, whereas breaking ST has been reported to be beneficial for reducing cardiovascular risk.

Purpose: The objective of this study is to examine the effects of breaking ST on superficial femoral artery (SFA) endothelial function.

Hypotheses: 1) Prolonged sitting would induce endothelial dysfunction and changes in shear forces, and 2) breaking ST with brief periods of activity would prevent attenuation in endothelial function.

Methods: Twelve nonobese men (24.2 ± 4.2 yr) participated in two randomized 3-h sitting trials. In the sitting (SIT) trial, subjects were seated on a firmly cushioned chair for 3 h without moving their lower extremities. In the breaking ST trial (ACT), subjects sat similar to the SIT trial but walked on a treadmill for 5 min at 2 mph at 30 min, 1 h 30 min, and 2 h 30 min during the sitting interval. SFA flow-mediated dilation (FMD) was assessed at baseline, 1 h, 2 h, and 3 h in each trial. Statistical analyses were performed using dependent variables SFA FMD and shear rates. Significance was set at P ≤ 0.05.

Results: In the SIT trial, there was a significant decline in SFA FMD from baseline to 3 h (baseline, 4.72% ± 3.78%; 1 h, 0.52% ± 0.85%; 2 h, 1.66% ± 1.11%; 3 h, 2.2% ± 2.15; P < 0.05 by ANOVA) accompanied by a decline in mean shear rate and antegrade shear rate but no difference in shear rate (area under the curve). By two-way repeated-measures ANOVA, ACT prevented the sitting-induced decline in FMD (baseline, 4.5% ± 2.3%; 1 h, 5.04% ± 2.85%; 2 h, 5.28% ± 5.05%; 3 h, 6.9% ± 4.5%) along with no decline in shear rates.

Conclusion: Three hours of sitting resulted in a significant impairment in shear rate and SFA FMD. When light activity breaks were introduced hourly during sitting, the decline in FMD was prevented.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blood Flow Velocity
  • Endothelium, Vascular / physiology*
  • Femoral Artery / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Posture / physiology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sedentary Behavior*
  • Vasodilation
  • Walking / physiology*
  • Young Adult