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.