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Standing vs. Sitting: Why Movement Boosts Our Health

The Glenville Democrat of Glenville, West Virginia

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Our modern workplace environments that promote desk jobs and prolonged sitting are harmful to our health.

The question I want to pose to you is this: Are our modern workplaces, and the advances that make them possible, directly responsible for our worsening societal health? This question was the focus of a July 2015 study published in the European Heart Journal, conducted by researchers at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, MD, also addressed the issue in an excellent editorial about the same study, Standing for Healthier Lives — Literally.

Standing during work as a health benefit is not a new concept, Dr. Lopez-Jimenez points out. In a 1953 study from London published in the British Medical Journal, bus conductors who often stood during their work shifts had less coronary artery disease and lower total mortality than bus drivers who spent then-days seated.

Ask yourself a few simple questions:

If you see two employees traveling to work — one on a regular bicycle and the other in a luxury automobile — who likely has the higher position in the company?

Consider a second scenario: If one of your neighbors hires a maid and a lawn service, and the other spends a lot of time on the yard and doing household chores, who probably has a higher economic status?

The Bigger the Chair, the Better — Not Healthier — the Job

Perception is important in our society. Leaders of large corporations often have very large offices with vast comfortable seating. They also spend extensively to make large open lobbies with big couches and chairs. "In every country, the bigger and more comfortable the chair, the more important the job. Interestingly, in the English language, chair also means chief or director, making a piece of furniture a synonym of power and rank," writes Lopez-Jimenez.

Standing Vs. Sitting Cuts Heart Disease Risks

In the interesting new study from Australia, researchers recognized that excessive sitting time is associated with worse health. They asked if replacing sitting with standing was sufficient, or if additional activity and motion was still required or would provide additional benefits. Six hundred and nighty-eight people were enrolled in this study — 57 percent of them women. The average age was approximately 58.

Most of us often overestimate our activity and exercise times and underestimate our sedentary times. When people replaced two hours of sitting a day with standing, they had changes in these important heart disease risk factors:

2 percent lower blood glucose (blood sugar), 11 percent reduction in triglycerides, 6 percent lower total cholesterol, Higher levels of HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol), by 0.06 millimoles per liter (mmol/L)

This suggests that just by increasing how much you stand during the day, you can greatly impact risk factors for heart disease.

The authors then looked at what happens when you replace two hours of sitting with stepping. For those who have an office job, this means using a small stair stepper or workplace treadmill. The rate they chose was three METs (METS are metabolic equivalents, and the energy it takes to just sit is one MET). Three METs is a walking rate of about 2.5 to 3 miles per hour.

Results associated with this simple lifestyle change from sitting to stepping were profound:

11 percent lower blood sugar

11 percent lower body mass index (BMI)

7.5 cm smaller waist circumference

14 percent lower triglycerides

Even higher levels of good (HDL) cholesterol, by 0.10 mmol/L.

These findings don't reflect the other many positive benefits with increasing your time standing and stepping: Lower stress and anxiety, better sleep, lower risk of muscle and bone loss, improved posture, improved breathing mechanics, and more.

So start now! Stand up!



Copyright 2015 The Glenville Democrat, Glenville, West Virginia. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: November 5, 2015



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