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Acute effects of breaking up prolonged sitting on fatigue and cognition: a pilot study
  1. Patrik Wennberg1,
  2. Carl-Johan Boraxbekk2,
  3. Michael Wheeler3,4,
  4. Bethany Howard3,5,
  5. Paddy C Dempsey3,5,
  6. Gavin Lambert3,5,
  7. Nina Eikelis3,
  8. Robyn Larsen3,
  9. Parneet Sethi3,
  10. Jessica Occleston3,
  11. Jenny Hernestål-Boman1,
  12. Kathryn A Ellis6,
  13. Neville Owen3,5,7,8,
  14. David W Dunstan3,4,5,7,8,9,10,11
  1. 1Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden
  2. 2CEDAR, Center for Demographic and Aging Research, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden
  3. 3Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, Melbourne, Australia
  4. 4School of Sport Science, Exercise & Health, University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia
  5. 5Central Clinical School, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia
  6. 6The Academic Unit for Psychiatry of Old Age, Department of Psychiatry, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
  7. 7School of Population Health, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia
  8. 8Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
  9. 9School of Exercise & Nutrition Sciences, Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia
  10. 10Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research, Australian Catholic University, Melbourne, Australia
  11. 11Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Patrik Wennberg; patrik.wennberg{at}


Objectives To compare the acute effects of uninterrupted sitting with sitting interrupted by brief bouts of light-intensity walking on self-reported fatigue, cognition, neuroendocrine biomarkers and cardiometabolic risk markers in overweight/obese adults.

Design Randomised two-condition crossover trial.

Setting Laboratory study conducted in Melbourne, Australia.

Participants 19 overweight/obese adults (45–75 years).

Interventions After an initial 2 h period seated, participants consumed a meal-replacement beverage and completed (on 2 days separated by a 6-day washout period) each condition over the next 5 h: uninterrupted sitting (sedentary condition) or sitting with 3 min bouts of light-intensity walking every 30 min (active condition).

Primary outcome measures Self-reported fatigue, executive function and episodic memory at 0 h, 4 h and 7 h.

Secondary outcome measures Neuroendocrine biomarkers and cardiometabolic risk markers (blood collections at 0 h, 4 h and 7 h, blood pressure and heart rate measured hourly and interstitial glucose measured using a continuous glucose monitoring system).

Results During the active condition, fatigue levels were lower at 4 h (−13.32 (95% CI −23.48 to −3.16)) and at 7 h (−10.73 (95% CI −20.89 to −0.58)) compared to the sedentary condition. Heart rate was higher at 4 h (4.47 (95% CI 8.37 to 0.58)) and at 7 h (4.32 (95% CI 8.21 to 0.42)) during the active condition compared to the sedentary condition. There were no significant differences between conditions by time for other variables. In the sedentary condition, changes in fatigue scores over time correlated with a decrease in heart rate and plasma dihydroxyphenylalanine (DOPA) and an increase in plasma dihydroxyphenylglycol (DHPG).

Conclusions Interrupting prolonged sitting with light-intensity walking breaks may be an effective fatigue countermeasure acutely. Fatigue levels corresponded with the heart rate and neuroendocrine biomarker changes in uninterrupted sitting in this pilot study. Further research is needed to identify potential implications, particularly for the occupational health context.

Trial registration number ACTRN12613000137796; Results.


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