Stand Up for Better Health


standHours at the gym (and cool looking workout clothes) are not really necessary to have a big impact on health. New research says that if people simply get up and stand up more they will have better health markers.

A small change to get off the couch or up from the chair at work and stand while on the phone or in the back of the room at presentations can really result in a noticeable positive change. According to research in the European Heart Journal, replacing sitting time with time on one’s feet (merely resting upright and/or walking time) was shown to improve levels of cholesterol, far and sugar in blood.

“An extra two hours per day spent standing rather than sitting was associated with approximately two percent lower average fasting blood sugar levels,” according to a press statement issued with the publication. It also resulted in 11 percent lower average triglyceride (fats in the blood) rates and higher levels of the so-called “good” cholesterol, HDL.

Replacing the two hours of sedentary time with an actual activity like walking or stepping in place produced even better health benefits. It also resulted in the positive changes noted earlier, but resulted in the added benefits of an 11 percent lower Body Mass Index (BMI) on average and a three inch smaller waist circumference.

The study, conducted by researchers from Australia, involved more than 780 adults, aged 36 to 80, in 32 countries. The adults were already participating in a broader diabetes, obesity and lifestyle study.

Study participants provided blood samples as well as measurements of their height, weight and waist circumference and their blood pressure. They were then given an activity monitor to wear on a thigh round the clock for seven days. The gadgets tracks sleeping, sitting, lying down, activities that required stepping (such as pacing), and merely standing up.

To determine the impact of replacing sedentary time with getting up on one’s feet, whether moving or standing, the researchers used a isotemporal analysis. That process used an isotemporal substitution model (ISM) developed to study the time-substitution effects of replacing one activity with another. They modeled the difference people experienced if they changed their behavior for two hours a day or kept their sedentary practices as they were before the study started.

In today’s world, people are more sedentary than ever before. The study reported that adults sit, on average, for 3.2 to 6.8 hours a day in Europe. (Some American studies say office workers spend about 6 hours a day sitting.) Presented another way, many adults spend almost half of their waking hours sitting on their rears. This differs from the old days when people worked standing up, and regularly got up at home (to get the phone attached to the wall, to change the television channel, to iron laundry, and even to check the time on the clock (versus having the time on every gadget around).

The researchers point to the possible workplace changes that could result in less sitting time. For example, they suggest more use of “standing desks,” which have been presented an ergonomic alternative in workplaces and were even used, reportedly, by Winston Churchill and Charles Dickens. There are even treadmill desk set-ups that allow on to walk with working.

Sound silly? So did cubicles and cell phones. As Francisco Lopez-Jimenez from the Mayo College of Medicine, Minn., noted in an editorial published with the study, “The fight against sedentary behavior cannot be won based only on the promotion of regular exercise.” She noted that standing for a few hours at work and doing chores at home can be more beneficial than running or jogging for a hour each day. So, for better health, it might be a good idea to stand up in place when reading the next article.

Written and edited by Dyanne Weiss

New York Daily News: More evidence shows standing helps your health
European Heart Journal: Replacing sitting time with standing or stepping: associations with cardio-metabolic risk biomarkers
CTV News: Get up, stand up: stand up for your waist

Photo courtesy of John M’s Flickr page – Creative Commons license