It feels like you can’t read anything on the Internet these days without stumbling across the latest piece of evidence that sitting down is killing you. Not only does it lead to all sorts of physiological problems, but the evidence suggests it’s bad for our mental health too.
Luckily, you don’t have to rush out and buy a standing desk just yet (and that’s good news because, man, those things are exxy). New research from the University of Queensland in Australia suggests that even 2 hours a day of standing in place of sitting could offer health benefits, meaning people might not have to make massive changes to their lifestyle to counter some of the adverse effects of too much sitting.
Scientists already knew that sitting is bad for our cardio-metabolic health, but it remained unclear whether standing alone is a suitable replacement for sitting, or whether active, ambulatory movement is actually required to stave off the dangers of being sedentary. To test this, the researchers gave activity monitors to more than 780 men and women aged between 36 and 80.
“Participants wore the monitors for 24 hours a day for one week, and from this data we were able to accurately determine how long each participant spent sleeping, sitting or lying down, standing and stepping, which included walking and running,” said co-author Genevieve Healy in a press release. “We also took blood samples and measured blood pressure, height, weight and waist circumference.”
What the researchers found was that an extra 2 hours per day simply standing instead of sitting was associated with an approximate 2 percent average reduction in fasting blood sugar levels and 11 percent lower average triglycerides (fats in the blood).
“Extra standing time was also associated with higher average levels of the good type of cholesterol known as HDL, and replacing 2 hours a day of sitting time with stepping was associated with about an 11 percent lower average BMI and a 7.5cm smaller average waist circumference,” said Healy.
While the nature of the study means the researchers aren’t in a position to authoritatively conclude that standing instead of sitting improves your health, their findings add to the growing body of evidence that anything we do with our bodies that isn’t sitting or lying down corresponds with overall better fitness.
“These findings provide important preliminary evidence that strategies to increase the amount of time spent standing or walking rather than sitting may benefit the heart and metabolism,” Healy said.
The real challenge for people now is to take the time to stand up. It’s not like anybody’s going to find an extra 2 hours in the day (trust us, they’re just not there), so instead, we have to take activities we’d normally perform sitting down – like reading, watching TV, working, and eating – and make them work for us standing up. Not all activities will be equally suitable of course, but it can’t be impossible to swap just 2 hours a day, can it?