The Health Benefits of Sitting Less and Standing More

Updated on January 26, 2017
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Sadie Holloway loves researching and writing about simple ways to live a healthier lifestyle.

It's Time to Stand up for Your Health!

Important Reminder: Always consult your physician before starting any new diet and exercise programs. For people who have mobility issues or health concerns that impact their ability to stand or move too much, listen to your body’s needs and go slowly. Do what feels right for you and if standing is not the best option for you to move more, perhaps try other exercises that can help you move more. Your physician, physiotherapist or occupational therapist can provide support and guidance on finding safe activities that help increase your movements.

Researchers have been sounding the alarm bells about the impact of sitting too much. Unsettling statistics about the dangers of sitting for long stretches of time each day have emerged, raising awareness about the vital role that movement plays in maintaining good health.

Scientists, doctors, and healthy living advocates are calling sitting too long the new 'smoking'. Years ago, society wised up to the detrimental effects of smoking, not just for smokers but for people who inhale secondhand smoke as well.

Numerous awareness campaigns were launched to educate the public about smoking's harmful effects. Laws were enacted to limit the public's exposure to second hand smoke in and around buildings, schools, and workplaces. Thanks to these efforts to educate the public on smoking's detrimental impact on our bodies, it seems unimaginable to think that people used to smoke right at their desks at work. Holy smokes! (Pun intended.)

Now, healthcare officials are starting to raise the alarms bells about how unhealthy our lifestyles have become because we are spending so much time sitting---at work, driving to work, at home lounging in front of the TV, the article even took aim at reading!

Alarmingly, the latest research links sitting too much each day to blood clots, obesity, diabetes, and the major killers, heart disease and cancer.

A 2010 literature review in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention found that sitting was associated with a higher risk of colorectal, endometrial, ovarian and prostate cancer, as well as cancer mortality in women.

Getting the recommended half-hour of exercise each day, while beneficial, isn’t enough to ward off the health dangers of sitting too much.. As Mark Tremblay, director of the Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group (HALO) at the CHEO Research Institute in Ottawa, points out, “Thirty minutes is two per cent of your day. What about the other 98 per cent?” If you are in inactive for most of the day, your 30 minutes of exercise is just a drop in the bucket

Of all the types of sedentary behavior, watching TV seems to be the worst. According to Tremblay, “Your metabolic rate almost goes below resting.” At least when you're on the computer, you're a bit busier, typing and scrolling and moving the mouse around. And because your hands are occupied, you won’t be snacking mindlessly in the same way you would if you were sitting on the couch in front of the TV. Then there are all the commercials that are designed trigger more eating, drinking, and snacking. It can be hard to avoid snacking especially when you’re constantly being exposed to ads for fast food, candy, soda and other junk foods.1

There is good news, however, if you can cut back on the amount of sitting you do to less than three hours a day. A study published by the British Medical Journal found that the U.S. population could gain an estimated two years of life expectancy by drastically cutting back on time spent sitting.

Walk Away From Unhealthy Habits

Walking is one of the easiest, cheapest ways to start improving your health right now!
Walking is one of the easiest, cheapest ways to start improving your health right now! | Source

Here are a few health benefits of standing and walking more often at work and at home.

1. After a 20-minute walking break, blood pressure drops and your blood sugar stabilizes.

2. Walking to your co-worker's desk instead of emailing her burns an extra 12 calories.

3. Walking for 15 minutes can help cut your craving for chocolate in half.

4. Standing for as little as 2 minutes every 20 minutes can combat the unhealthy effects of sitting too much.

5. Standing burns an extra 56 calories an hour over sitting. If you swapped standing with sitting for an hour a day, you'd save almost 1,700 calories a month. That's more than half a pound of weight loss each month, just by getting up out of your chair for five minutes every hour at work and at home while reading or watching TV.2

If you are alarmed by the statistics but you don’t know where to start, you can find a variety of different smartphone apps to download that will remind me to move every 15 minutes, 30 minutes, or 60 minutes. StandAppPro is a free app that you can download. Here’s how it works: When it’s time to stand, an alarm goes off and you are presented with a random activity to do followed by five minutes of standing. A short video pops up showing you how to do the activity. The activity breaks aren’t all about stretches and exercises, there are also some fun reminders built in such: take a water break, get up and visit a co-worker in another part of the office, make a personal call on your cell phone outside.

It may not feel like you are getting a whole lot of extra exercise doing these five minutes tasks all day, but you will be sitting less. And now that science has alerted us to the health risks of sitting too much, you can take steps to take better care of yourself.

Footnotes:

1. www.macleans.ca/society/life/dont-just-sit-there

2. Chatelaine, Walk While You Work, April 2013

© 2017 Sadie Holloway

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