Background: Prolonged sitting is associated with cardiometabolic and vascular disease. Despite emerging evidence regarding the acute health benefits of interrupting prolonged sitting time, the effectiveness of different modalities in older adults (who sit the most) is unclear.
Methods: In preparation for a future randomized controlled trial, we enrolled 10 sedentary, overweight or obese, postmenopausal women (mean age 66 years ±9; mean body mass index 30.6 kg/m2 ±4.2) in a 4-condition, 4-period crossover feasibility pilot study in San Diego to test 3 different sitting interruption modalities designed to improve glucoregulatory and vascular outcomes compared to a prolonged sitting control condition. The interruption modalities included: a) 2 minutes standing every 20 minutes; b) 2 minutes walking every hour; and c) 10 minutes standing every hour. During each 5-hr condition, participants consumed two identical, standardized meals. Blood samples, blood pressure, and heart rate were collected every 30 minutes. Endothelial function of the superficial femoral artery was measured at baseline and end of each 5-hr condition using flow-mediated dilation (FMD). Participants completed each condition on separate days, in randomized order. This feasibility pilot study was not powered to detect statistically significant differences in the various outcomes, however, analytic methods (mixed models) were used to test statistical significance within the small sample size.
Results: Nine participants completed all 4 study visits, one participant completed 3 study visits and then was lost to follow up. Net incremental area under the curve (iAUC) values for postprandial plasma glucose and insulin during the 5-hr sitting interruption conditions were not significantly different compared to the control condition. Exploratory analyses revealed that the 2-minute standing every 20 minutes and the 2-minute walking every hour conditions were associated with a significantly lower glycemic response to the second meal compared to the first meal (i.e., condition-matched 2-hour post-lunch glucose iAUC was lower than 2-hour post-breakfast glucose iAUC) that withstood Bonferroni correction (p = 0.0024 and p = 0.0084, respectively). Using allometrically scaled data, the 10-minute standing every hour condition resulted in an improved FMD response, which was significantly greater than the control condition after Bonferroni correction (p = 0.0033).
Conclusion: This study suggests that brief interruptions in prolonged sitting time have modality-specific glucoregulatory and vascular benefits and are feasible in an older adult population. Larger laboratory and real-world intervention studies of pragmatic and effective methods to change sitting habits are needed.