Long-Term and Acute Benefits of Reduced Sitting on Vascular Flow and Function

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2021 Feb 1;53(2):341-350. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000002462.


Purpose: Sedentary behavior increases the risk for cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease. To understand potential benefits and underlying mechanisms, we examined the acute and long-term effect of reduced sitting intervention on vascular and cerebrovascular function.

Methods: This prospective study included 24 individuals with increased cardiovascular risk (65 ± 5 yr, 29.8 ± 3.9 kg·m-2). Before and after 16-wk reduced sitting, using a mobile health device with vibrotactile feedback, we examined (i) vascular function (flow-mediated dilation [FMD]), (ii) cerebral blood flow velocity (CBFv, transcranial Doppler), and (iii) cerebrovascular function (cerebral autoregulation [CA] and cerebral vasomotor reactivity [CVMR]). To better understand potential underlying mechanisms, before and after intervention, we evaluated the effects of 3 h sitting with and without light-intensity physical activity breaks (every 30 min).

Results: The first wave of participants showed no change in sedentary time (n = 9, 10.3 ± 0.5 to 10.2 ± 0.5 h·d-1, P = 0.87). Upon intervention optimization by participants' feedback, the subsequent participants (n = 15) decreased sedentary time (10.2 ± 0.4 to 9.2 ± 0.3 h·d-1, P < 0.01). This resulted in significant increases in FMD (3.1% ± 0.3% to 3.8% ± 0.4%, P = 0.02) and CBFv (48.4 ± 2.6 to 51.4. ±2.6 cm·s-1, P = 0.02), without altering CA or CVMR. Before and after the 16-wk intervention, 3-h exposure to uninterrupted sitting decreased FMD and CBFv, whereas physical activity breaks prevented a decrease (both P < 0.05). CA and CVMR did not change (P > 0.20).

Conclusion: Long-term reduction in sedentary behavior improves peripheral vascular function and cerebral blood flow and acutely prevents impaired vascular function and decreased cerebral blood flow. These results highlight the potential benefits of reducing sedentary behavior to acutely and chronically improve cardio- or cerebrovascular risk.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Blood Circulation*
  • Blood Flow Velocity
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Feedback, Sensory
  • Female
  • Heart Disease Risk Factors
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sedentary Behavior*
  • Sitting Position
  • Vasodilation

Associated data

  • NTR/NTR6387