Sports Medicine

, Volume 48, Issue 10, pp 2347–2366 | Cite as

The Acute Metabolic and Vascular Impact of Interrupting Prolonged Sitting: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

  • Travis J. SaundersEmail author
  • Hayden F. Atkinson
  • Jamie Burr
  • Brittany MacEwen
  • C. Murray Skeaff
  • Meredith C. Peddie
Systematic Review



The aim was to conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis analyzing the impact of up to 24 h of prolonged sitting on postprandial glucose, insulin and triglyceride responses, blood pressure and vascular function, in comparison to sitting interrupted with light- to moderate-intensity physical activity.


To be included, studies had to examine the impact of prolonged sitting lasting < 24 h in apparently healthy males or females of any age. Studies were identified from searches of the MEDLINE, CINAHL and SportDISCUS databases on July 6, 2016. Study quality was assessed using the Downs and Black Checklist; publication bias was assessed via funnel plot.


Forty-four studies met the inclusion criteria for the systematic review; of these, 20 were included in the meta-analysis, which compared prolonged sitting to the effects of interrupting sitting with regular activity breaks on postprandial glucose, insulin and triglycerides. When compared to prolonged sitting, regular activity breaks lowered postprandial glucose (d = − 0.36, 95% confidence interval [CI] − 0.50 to − 0.21) and insulin (d = − 0.37, 95% CI − 0.53 to − 0.20), but not triglyceride responses (d = 0.06, 95% CI − 0.15 to 0.26). Subgroup analyses indicated reductions in postprandial triglyceride responses only occurred 12–16 h after the intervention. The magnitude of the reductions in glucose, insulin or triglyceride response was not modified by the intensity of the activity breaks, the macronutrient composition of the test meal, or the age or body mass index of participants.


Prolonged sitting results in moderate elevations in postprandial glucose and insulin responses when compared to sitting interrupted with activity breaks.




Compliance with Ethical Standards


Meredith Peddie’s work was supported by a Research Fellowship from the National Heart Foundation of New Zealand (Grant no. 1745). Hayden Atkinson’s work was supported by a Summer Undergraduate Research Award from the University of Prince Edward Island. Travis Saunders is supported by the Jeanne and J.-Louis Lévesque Research Professorship in Nutrisciences and Health. No other sources of funding were used to assist in the preparation of this article.

Conflict of interest

Travis Saunders has received research and/or in-kind support from Stepscount, Fitabase, and Ergotron. Hayden Atkinson, Jamie Burr, Brittany MacEwen, Murray Skeaff and Meredith Peddie declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Supplementary material

40279_2018_963_MOESM1_ESM.tiff (930 kb)
Figure S1 Effect (Cohen’s d) of regular activity breaks (< 10 min in duration) compared to prolonged sitting on postprandial glucose responses, stratified by intensity of activity breaks. Studies are sorted within each subgroup by age of participants. The diamond indicates the standardized mean difference (SMD) with associated 95% confidence interval for each subgroup (TIFF 929 kb)
40279_2018_963_MOESM2_ESM.tiff (1020 kb)
Figure S2 Effect (Cohen’s d) of regular activity breaks (< 10 min in duration) compared to prolonged sitting on postprandial insulin responses, stratified by intensity of activity breaks. Studies are sorted within each subgroup by age of participants. The diamond indicates the standardized mean difference (SMD) with associated 95% confidence interval for each subgroup (TIFF 1019 kb)
40279_2018_963_MOESM3_ESM.tiff (1.1 mb)
Figure S3 Effect (Cohen’s d) of regular activity breaks (< 10 min in duration) compared to prolonged sitting on postprandial triglyceride responses, stratified by intensity of activity breaks. Studies are sorted within each subgroup by age of participants. The diamond indicates the standardized mean difference (SMD) with associated 95% confidence interval for each subgroup (TIFF 1092 kb)
40279_2018_963_MOESM4_ESM.tiff (1007 kb)
Figure S4 Effect (Cohen’s d) of regular activity breaks (< 10 min in duration) compared to prolonged sitting on postprandial glucose responses, stratified by timing of the test meal. The diamond indicates the standardized mean difference (SMD) with associated 95% confidence interval for each subgroup (TIFF 1006 kb)
40279_2018_963_MOESM5_ESM.tiff (1.1 mb)
Figure S5 Effect (Cohen’s d) of regular activity breaks (< 10 min in duration) compared to prolonged sitting on postprandial insulin responses, stratified by timing of the test meal. The diamond indicates the standardized mean difference (SMD) with associated 95% confidence interval for each subgroup (TIFF 1105 kb)
40279_2018_963_MOESM6_ESM.tiff (1.1 mb)
Figure S6 Effect (Cohen’s d) of regular activity breaks (< 10 min in duration) compared to prolonged sitting on postprandial triglyceride responses, stratified by timing of the test meal. The diamond indicates the standardized mean difference (SMD) with associated 95% confidence interval for each subgroup (TIFF 1156 kb)
40279_2018_963_MOESM7_ESM.xlsx (28 kb)
Supplementary material 7 (XLSX 29 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Travis J. Saunders
    • 1
    Email author
  • Hayden F. Atkinson
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  • Jamie Burr
    • 5
  • Brittany MacEwen
    • 1
  • C. Murray Skeaff
    • 6
  • Meredith C. Peddie
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of Applied Human SciencesUniversity of Prince Edward IslandCharlottetownCanada
  2. 2.Graduate Program in Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences, School of Physical TherapyUniversity of Western OntarioLondonCanada
  3. 3.Wolf Orthopaedic Biomechanics Laboratory, Fowler Kennedy Sport Medicine ClinicUniversity of Western OntarioLondonCanada
  4. 4.Collaborative Graduate Training Program in Musculoskeletal Health Research, Bone and Joint InstituteUniversity of Western OntarioLondonCanada
  5. 5.Department of Human Health and Nutritional SciencesUniversity of GuelphGuelphCanada
  6. 6.Department of Human NutritionUniversity of OtagoOtagoNew Zealand

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