The Effects of Acute Exposure to Prolonged Sitting, with and Without Interruption, on Peripheral Blood Pressure Among Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Sports Med. 2022 Jun;52(6):1369-1383. doi: 10.1007/s40279-021-01614-7. Epub 2021 Dec 21.


Background: Previous reviews have shown that exposure to acute prolonged sitting can have detrimental effects on several cardiovascular and cardiometabolic health markers. However, to date, there has been no synthesis of peripheral blood pressure data (including systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure and mean arterial pressure), an important and translatable marker of cardiovascular health. Similarly, no previous study has consolidated the effects of sitting interruptions on peripheral blood pressure.

Objectives: We aimed to (1) assess the effect of exposure to acute prolonged sitting on peripheral blood pressure and (2) determine the efficacy of sitting interruption strategies as a means of offsetting any negative effects. Subgroup analyses by age and interruption modality were performed to explore heterogeneity.

Data sources: Electronic databases (PubMed, Web of Science and, SPORTDiscus) were searched from inception to March 2021. Reference lists of eligible studies and relevant reviews were also screened.

Study selection: Inclusion criteria for objective (1) were: (i) peripheral blood pressure was assessed non-invasively in the upper limb pre-sitting and post-sitting; (ii) studies were either randomised controlled, randomised crossover or quasi-experimental pre-test vs post-test trials; (iii) the sitting period was ≥ 1 h; (iv) pre-sitting and post-sitting measures were performed in the same posture; and (v) participants were adults (aged ≥ 18 years), free of autonomic or neuromuscular dysfunction. Additional criteria for objective (2) were: (i) the interruption strategy was during the sitting period; (ii) there was an uninterrupted sitting control condition; and (iii) the interruption strategy must have involved participants actively moving their upper or lower limbs.

Appraisal and synthesis methods: In total, 9763 articles were identified, of which 33 met inclusion criteria for objective (1). Of those articles, 22 met inclusion criteria for objective (2). Weighted mean difference (WMD), 95% confidence intervals (95% CI), and standardised mean difference (SMD) were calculated for all trials using inverse variance heterogeneity meta-analysis modelling. Standardised mean difference was used to determine the magnitude of effect, where < 0.2, 0.2, 0.5 and 0.8 were defined as trivial, small, moderate and large, respectively.

Results: (1) Prolonged uninterrupted sitting resulted in trivial and small significant increases in systolic blood pressure (WMD = 3.2 mmHg, 95% CI 0.6 to 5.8, SMD = 0.14) and mean arterial pressure (WMD = 3.3 mmHg, 95% CI 2.2 to 4.4, SMD = 0.37), respectively, and a non-significant trivial increase in diastolic blood pressure. Subgroup analyses indicated that the increases in systolic blood pressure and mean arterial pressure were more pronounced in younger age groups. (2) Interrupting bouts of prolonged sitting resulted in significantly lower systolic blood pressure (WMD = - 4.4 mmHg, 95% CI - 7.4 to - 1.5, SMD = 0.26) and diastolic blood pressure (WMD = - 2.4 mmHg, 95% CI - 4.5 to - 0.3, SMD = 0.19) compared with control conditions, particularly when using aerobic interruption strategies.

Conclusions: Exposure to acute prolonged uninterrupted sitting results in significant increases in systolic blood pressure and mean arterial pressure, particularly in younger age groups. Regularly interrupting bouts of prolonged sitting, particularly with aerobic interruption strategies may reduce negative effects.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arterial Pressure*
  • Blood Pressure
  • Cardiovascular System*
  • Humans
  • Lower Extremity / blood supply
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Upper Extremity / blood supply