If you’re reading this while sitting down, you might want to stand up for a moment, or next time you talk on your cell phone, take a walk. Most of us are guilty of excess sitting, and as it turns out, simply standing vs. sitting can make a big difference in heart health and body weight.
Avoid Prolonged Sitting
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 which can lead to weight gain, and raises the risk of many diseases including type 2 diabetes and many cardiovascular problems.
Prolonged sitting is also linked to problems with blood glucose control, and a big reduction in the activity of an enzyme called lipoprotein lipase, which breaks down fats and makes them available as fuel to our muscles.
What Does the Research Say?
There's actually quite a bit of research about this prolonged sitting topic, and here are a few of the more current findings.
#1) Volunteers who stood for three hours per day, when they would normally be sitting, had a slightly higher heart rate—about 10 beats per minute—which increased calorie burn by about 0.7 of a calorie per minute.
I know that doesn’t sound like much, but it adds up to about 50 calories an hour. If you stand for three hours a day for five days, that’s burning around 750 calories! Over the course of a year, it would add up to about 30,000 extra calories, or about 8 lbs. of fat. That’s equal to running 10 marathons a year! Unreal!
#2) Another recent investigation with over 92,000 women reported standing up and walking around for two minutes each hour can cut the risk of premature death by 33%.
#3) To add even more proof to this standing vs. sitting debate, researchers at the University of Utah compiled data on more than 3,200 people found taking a two-minute break each hour to stroll, garden or just tidy up really helps with metabolism. In fact, these short breaks can burn an extra 400 calories a week if you insert them into all your waking hours, which the researchers assumed to be 16 hours per day.
Simple ways to stand more often and incorporate movement without even thinking about it:
1. Getting up every hour and filling your glass with water - drink it while standing up.
2. Getting up to talk to a colleague rather than sending an email.
3. 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."
4. 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.
5. If on a cell phone, go on a walk while you talk to your best friend or mom.
6. At work, look into a stand-up desk. These raise and lower the height via a built-in motor, and it offers the flexibility to stand or sit.
The daily habit of getting up and moving around can improve your health. Follow recommendations to get some moderate exercise for 2.5 hours a week, in addition to incorporating your two-minute walking breaks. One simple move can make a big difference: stand up!
In Health and Happiness,
Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Live Superfoods
Seguin, Rebecca et al. Sedentary Behavior and Mortality in Older Women. February 2014. Vol. 46, Issue 2: 122-135.