Sitting behind a desk all day and struggling to concentrate come 3pm? New research has found that staying sedentary can slow the flow of blood to our brains, which can have short-term effects on cognitive function and long-term implications for our health.
The study – published in the Journal of Applied Physiology – put 15 healthy adults through a number of experiments to explore the impact of uninterrupted and interrupted sitting on cerebrovascular blood flow.
The participants underwent three different tests on seperate days: 1) uninterrupted sitting, 2) sitting with two minute light intensity walking breaks every 30 minutes or 3) sitting with eight minute, light intensity walking breaks every two hours. Blood flow velocity to the brain was tested before the experiment and after four hours.
They found that when subjects sat for four continuous hours, blood flow showed a small but noticeable decline. When sitting was broken up with walking every two hours, blood flow picked up during the actual walking break but was lower by the end of the session than at the start. However, blain blood flow rose slightly in participants who broke up sitting with two minute of walking every 30 minutes.
Although the study was small and did not address whether these declines in blood flow affected participants’ ability to think, past studies have found that short-term drops in brain blood flow can impact thinking and memory while long-term reductions are linked to higher risks of neurodegenerative diseases, including dementia.
Staying sedentary has long been linked to reduced physical health outcomes but more research is highlighting its impact on mental health. A recent Australian study found that those who sat for at least six hours a day were more likely to feel tired, nervous, restless or hopeless compared to those who spent less time on their butts.
So let this inspire you to set an alarm on your phone and get stepping every halfa.