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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. 

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.