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'Stand Up, Sit Less, Move More'

Dec. 16, 2015|414 views

It’s no news that spending too much time sitting is bad for your health. In recent years, it’s become glaringly evident that sitting is a previously under-recognized risk factor for various negative health outcomes. The more you sit, the more likely you are to be overweight, for example. Ditto the chances of developing type 2 diabetes. Sitting is even linked to the risk of developing cancer, and other chronic diseases. And it may boost your risk of early death. So advice to get up and move is also nothing new. Most people who are likely to take such advice to heart are already doing so.

And speaking of the heart, a new report has delved deeper into the dangers of sitting, and concluded that when it comes to getting up out of that chair, standing is better for the cardiovascular system, while moving is best for trimming one’s waistline.

Dr Genevieve Healy is a senior research fellow at the School of Public Health at The University of Queensland, Australia. She led the study, published recently in the European Heart Journal. ”We found that time spent standing rather than sitting was significantly associated with lower levels of blood sugar and blood fats. Replacing sitting time with stepping was also associated with a significant reduction in waistline and BMI. While the study cannot show that less time spent sitting causes the improvements in these markers of health, the associations it reveals are consistent with what is known already about the benefits of a non-sedentary lifestyle,” Healy said.

Standing for two extra hours per day slightly raised levels of “good” HDL-cholesterol, and lowered fasting blood sugar levels. Fasting blood sugar that remains high may point to “glucose handling” problems, which could eventually manifest as diabetes. When subjects moved more, instead of merely standing, they also appeared to lose weight more readily. Commentators note that advice to avoid sedentary behavior by exercising may not take into account the potential benefits of simple standing, rather than sitting. Some people may be more likely to stand than they are to engage in exercise more often.

In an accompanying editorial, Professor Francisco Lopez-Jimenez (MD, MSc) of the Mayo Clinic and Mayo College of Medicine (Minnesota), wrote: “…the fight against sedentary behavior cannot be won based only on the promotion of regular exercise…A person walking while at work for two hours, standing for another four hours, and performing some daily chores at home for another hour will burn more calories than jogging or running for 60 minutes.”

In any event, the message remains clear. Sitting is to be avoided as much as possible. Or, as Dr. Healy puts it: “…it is important to say that not all sitting is bad; but if people can incorporate alternatives to sitting wherever possible, it may benefit their heart and metabolic health. Our message is to 'Stand Up, Sit Less, Move More'."

E. G. Wilmot, C. L. Edwardson, F. A. Achana, M. J. Davies, T. Gorely, L. J. Gray, K. Khunti, T. Yates, S. J. H. Biddle. Sedentary time in adults and the association with diabetes, cardiovascular disease and death: systematic review and meta-analysis. Diabetologia, 2012; 55 (11): 2895 DOI: 10.1007/s00125-012-2677-z

Genevieve N. Healy et al. Replacing sitting by standing or stepping: associations with cardio-metabolic risk biomarkers. European Heart Journal, July 2015 DOI: 10.1093/eurheartj/ehv308