Sitting for long hours reduces blood flow to the brain

A team of researchers with Liverpool John Moores University in the U.K. has found evidence of reduced blood flow to the brain in people who sit for long periods of time. Their paper has been published in the Journal of Applied Physiology.

Most people know that sitting for very long hours without getting up now and then is unhealthy. In addition to contributing to weight gain, sitting for a long time can cause back pain and leg problems and possibly other ailments. And now, evidence has been reported that it can reduce blood flow to the brain—something shown in the past to contribute to the likelihood of developing neurological disorders such as dementia.

Suspecting that sitting for a long time could cause circulation problems to the brain, the researchers enlisted the assistance of 15 adult volunteers—each of them had a day job that required long hours of sitting. Each of the volunteers participated in three exercises over a period of time—each came to the lab on three separate occasions and sat for four hours. On each visit, they were fitted with a headband that measured blood flow to the brain using ultrasound. Each subject also wore a face mask that captured and measured carbon dioxide levels.

During the first exercise, the volunteers were asked to sit at a desk for four straight hours, leaving their chairs only to use the restroom. For the second exercise, each rose from their chair every 30 minutes and walked on a treadmill for two minutes. In the third exercise, each subject remained in their chair for two hours and then walked on the treadmill for eight minutes, then returned to the chair.

The researchers found evidence of reduced blood flow in all of the volunteers during all of the exercises. However, they also found that normal blood flow was restored by walking breaks. They report that the best outcome was when the volunteers took frequent two-minute walking breaks.

* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.