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Weight Benefits of Standing

If you can spend at least a quarter of the day standing (and moving) you’re less likely to be obese than if those hours are spent sitting. A new study from the American Cancer Society shows that men who spent a quarter of their waking time on their feet were 32 percent less likely to be obese and those who spent half their daytime standing were 59 percent less likely to be obese than people who don’t stand as much. Women who spent a quarter of their time standing were 35 percent less likely to be have large waist circumferences (abdominal obesity) while the risk was 47 percent lower for those who spent half their time on their feet and 57 percent lower for those who spent three-quarters of the day standing. Researchers came to these conclusions after examining more than 7,000 adults attending the Cooper Clinic in Dallas from 2010 to 2015. They checked each individual’s body mass index, body fat percentage and waist circumference. The study participants also reported on the amount of time they spent on their feet. Those who said they met guidelines to perform 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity daily had even lower risks of obesity. The researchers said that it is unclear whether their study participants were standing still or moving but noted that standing motionless essentially burns no more calories than sitting. 

More Dangers of Sitting

Ladies: consider filing this news under “life isn’t fair”. New research from the American Cancer Society shows that women who spend more time sitting had a greater risk of cancer in general and three kinds of cancer in particular. The researchers reported that women who sit for six hours or more a day during their free time had a 65 percent higher risk of multiple myeloma (a cancer that forms in bone marrow), a 43 percent greater risk for ovarian cancer, a 10 percent greater risk for invasive breast cancer and a 10 percent greater risk for any type of cancer compared with women who sat for less than three hours during their free time. No such risks were seen in the men in the investigation, except those who were obese. The researchers analyzed data from 77,462 women and 69,260 men participating in the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Prevention Study II Nutrition Cohort. The women were followed for an average of 15.8 years and the men for 13.2 years.

My take: A number of studies already have shown that too much sitting isn’t good for your long-term health. It has been linked to deposits of fat around the heart (pericardial fat) associated with cardiovascular disease, whether or not it was related to weight gain and regardless of whether or not study participants exercised. Sitting for more than seven hours a day has been linked to type 2 diabetes in women, even those who reported exercising for 30 minutes a day. This risk wasn’t seen in men or in women who sat for less than seven hours a day. Given the fact that so many people today have desk-bound jobs, it can be challenging to avoid prolonged sitting. But the more we learn about the health risks posed by sitting for hours at a time, the more important it becomes to find ways to move as much as possible.

How Standing, Not Sitting, Benefits Health

We’ve heard a lot lately about the toll excessive sitting – at work, in traffic, at home in front of the TV or computer – can take on health. Now a study from Australia has shown that replacing sitting with two hours of standing or stepping (which includes walking and running) can help improve your health. Researchers at the University of Queensland investigated the effects of spending more time on their feet among 782 men and women, ages 36-80. All the study participants were provided activity monitors that can accurately determine how long each one spent sleeping, sitting, lying down, or standing and stepping. The participants wore the monitors on their thighs for 24 hours a day for seven days. Then, the researchers used a statistical technique called isotemporal analysis to estimate the potential impact on health of switching from sitting to standing or stepping. They determined that an extra two hours per day standing was linked to approximately 2 percent lower average fasting blood sugar levels, 11 percent lower average triglycerides, a boost in HDL (“good”) cholesterol and a 6 percent average drop in the ratio between total and HDL cholesterol. Two hour extra stepping time was associated with an approximately 11 percent lower BMI and a 7.5-centimeter (about 3 inches) smaller waist circumference. 

My take: We know from other studies that habitual sitting is related to increased deposits of adipose tissue around the heart (pericardial fat), a change linked to cardiovascular disease that can impact the arteries that serve the heart. While the Australian researchers acknowledge that more and larger studies are needed to confirm their findings, the results of this one are useful. They show that health can be improved with simple habits of lifestyle, including the amount of time you spend standing and stepping. I’m in favor of anything that encourages you to move regularly. Spending a little more time on your feet would be a good start.

Sitting or Standing: What Should You Choose?

It’s been said that sitting is the new smoking – in other words, sitting for hours daily is now being linked to dangerous health conditions, just as smoking was in previous decades. Find out what makes standing the healthier option, and ways to make standing something you do easily and naturally.

If you are concerned about heart disease and weight gain, one simple move can make a big difference: stand up! Even if you get regular exercise, prolonged sitting can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease and obesity. When you are inactive for long periods of time, your body's metabolism slows down; this can lead to weight gain, which raises the risk of many diseases including type 2 diabetes and many cardiovascular conditions.

Some simple ways to stand more often without even thinking about include:

  1. Getting up every hour and filling your glass with water - drink it while standing up.
  2. If you are in a long meeting at work, stand in the corner for a period of time. Better yet, if the weather is cooperative, schedule "walking meetings."
  3. When you are on the phone or writing emails, try standing instead sitting - you can do this at home by writing emails at your kitchen counter.
  4. At work, look into a stand-up desk. These raise and lower via a built-in motor, and offer the flexibility to stand or sit.

Sitting Too Much? Do This.

Spending the workday sitting can lead to higher cholesterol levels and greater waist circumference, both well-known risk factors for cardiovascular and metabolic disease. Researchers at Indiana University have found that simply taking a five-minute walk can help maintain the healthy function of leg arteries that could otherwise be compromised during hours of sitting. First, the team showed that even one hour of sitting can slow blood flow to the main artery in the legs by as much as 50 percent. That didn’t happen when study participants stood up and walked for five minutes for each hour of sitting, a positive change that the researchers attributed to an increase in muscle activity and blood flow during the walks. The 11 study participants were non-obese healthy men ages 20 through 35. To begin the investigation, they sat for three hours straight without moving their legs. The researchers used a blood pressure cuff and ultrasound to check the functionality of the femoral artery when the men first sat down and at the one-, two- and three-hour marks. Then, the men sat for another three-hour period, but every hour took a five-minute break to walk on a treadmill at two miles per hour. When the researchers tested the men while they were seated after their walks, they found that the arterial function wasn't altered or decreased.

My take? This study of this simple lifestyle intervention is good news for the millions of Americans who spend the working day seated. Getting up and walking for five minutes per hour is a healthy practice and walking at the rate of two miles per hour is no hardship. Other strategies that have been suggested to overcome the health hazards of too much sitting include the use of adjustable height desks so you can spend at least part of the day on your feet, and using a treadmill desk that allows you to walk at a slow, steady pace (less than two miles per hour) on a moving belt while you work at a desk that straddles the machine. I'm in favor of anything that increases the motivation or opportunity to move regularly.

Saurabh Thosar et al, "Effect of Prolonged Sitting and Breaks in Sitting Time on Endothelial Function," Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, August 18, 2014, Epub ahead of print

Sitting is Unhealthy … Unless You’re Physically Fit

Here’s some good news for a change about the health risks of prolonged sitting: a new study has found that it’s not so bad for you if you’re physically fit. Prolonged sitting at your desk, on your couch and in your car has previously been linked to obesity, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, some types of cancer and premature death. The study, at the Cooper Clinic in Dallas, Texas, enrolled 1,304 men between 1981 and 2012. The participants reported on how much time they spent watching TV and sitting in their cars and took a treadmill test to determine their physical fitness. Results showed that once physical fitness was factored in, prolonged sitting was associated only with a higher ratio of triglycerides to HDL cholesterol, not the long list of health problems identified in earlier studies. This undoubtedly won’t be the last word on the subject, but it does hint that for those with desk jobs, long commutes and some TV time, the impact of sitting on health may not be as negative as earlier studies suggested.

Kerem Shuval et al, “Sedentary Behavior, Cardiorespiratory Fitness, Physical Activity, and Cardiometabolic Risk in Men: The Cooper Center Longitudinal Study.” Mayo Clinic Proceedings, doi 10.1016/j.mayocp.2014.04.026

Overcoming the Risks of Too Much Sitting

Sitting all day at a desk job has been linked to high blood pressure, obesity and heart disease, risks that exercising before or after work don’t seem to change. Researchers in Australia tested three strategies to get desk-bound workers up and moving: the use of treadmill or cycling desk for 10 to 30 minutes several times a day; light to moderate exercise on breaks and before and after work; and the use of ergonomic workstations, breaking up computer tasks, moving around more often and periodically perching on the edge of the chair. A total of 133 people enrolled in the study but only 62 stayed with it until it ended. The upshot of all this physical activity was an average reduction of eight minutes per day in time spent sitting, a drop of only one to two percent in sedentary time, the researchers found, and potentially enough to have a positive impact on health. They suggest taking a break from sitting once every 30 minutes and simple strategies to do more office work while you’re mobile including standing while you’re on the phone, having walking meetings and using a bathroom that’s farther from your desk than the one you usually use.

Leon Straker et al, “Participatory Workplace Interventions Can Reduce Sedentary Time for Office Workers—A Randomised Controlled Trial,” PLOS One, November 12, 2013

What’s Wrong With Sitting?

Sitting can lead to depression in mid-life womenIf you followed medical news over the past year you've likely heard that sitting too much can lead to heart disease and diabetes. The latest study on the perils of sitting suggests that it can lead to depression in mid-life women. In 2001, a research team in Australia surveyed nearly 9,000 women age 50-55 about their physical activity, time spent sitting and their feelings. The participants were surveyed again in 2004, 2007 and 2010. A comprehensive review of the data showed that women who sat for more than seven hours a day had a risk of experiencing depressive symptoms that was 47 percent higher than women who sat for four hours a day or less. The investigation also showed that those women who did not exercise were at 99 percent higher risk of depression than women who met the Australian government’s recommendation to devote 30 minutes a day to physical activity. In fact, women who sat for multiple hours and did not exercise were overall three times more likely to report depressive symptoms than women who spent less time sitting and more time exercising. The researchers concluded that simply getting up and exercising for 30 minutes a day may help relieve current depression and ward off future bouts.

Jannique E.Z. van Uffelen et al, “Sitting-Time, Physical Activity, and Depressive Symptoms in Mid-Aged Women,” American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Volume 45, Issue 3 , Pages 276-281, September 2013

Is the Buddha in the car ?

One day, while riding in a bus Thay asked his attendant: “Do you think the Tathagata is in this bus with us or not?” Brother Phap Nguyen replied: “Yes, I think he is.” Thay said: “Are you sure?” There were 3 buses, Thay was in one, and there were still the other two buses. Wanting