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It will come as no surprise that a sedentary lifestyle is bad for you.
It’s old news that lack of exercise, day in and day out, is one of the biggest risk factors for metabolic syndrome, which leads to diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
But it might very well surprise you to hear that the simple act of standing can cause you to burn calories and shed unwanted pounds, lowering your risk for these diseases, and possibly helping you feel better and live longer.
Research shows: too much sitting can be deadly
A recently published study has identified a threshold beyond which sitting is bad for you.
Researchers from the United Kingdom and Brazil have just published a review of studies taken from six different databases. Each study looked at the relationship between sedentary behavior and death from cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.
People who sat for more than 6 to 8 hours per day, or watched TV for more than 3 to 4 hours per day, had a greater chance of death from all causes, and from heart disease in particular.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States. Andrea Chomistek, a professor at the School of Public Health at Indiana University, was concerned about this.
She and a team of researchers followed 97,000 young women, ages 27 to 44, for twenty years. Their findings suggested that, whether of a woman is of normal weight, overweight or obese, leisure time exercise was crucial to preventing death from heart disease.
Why is sitting so bad for you?
Our bodies burn energy for three purposes: to keep our bodily functions running, to burn calories from food, and to move. The calories we need to perform non-exercise type of activities, from folding laundry to brushing our teeth to walking up stairs, are known as NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) calories.
Too much sitting sets off a vicious cycle of inactivity. The more we sit, the more our body thinks we don’t need to burn NEAT calories. Those calorie-burning signals become harder to initiate, and so it becomes harder to get up out of the chair.
This makes it easier to understand why a sedentary life can lead to metabolic syndrome. When we eat, our blood sugar spikes. If we don’t move around much, our muscles and cells aren’t using all that glucose, which gets stored as fat. Eventually, we become overweight and at risk for metabolic syndrome.
Earlier this year, a doctor at the Mayo Clinic looked at whether just standing up will help you burn more calories than sitting down. The answer was clearly, “yes.”
Dr. Francisco Lopez-Jimenez and his research team found that standing burned 0.15 calories per minute more than sitting. At this rate, a 143-pound adult would burn an extra 54 calories every six hours. Assuming they didn’t start eating more, this person would lose 5.5 pounds per year just from choosing to stand up!
How to make yourself stand up
So how do we act on all this knowledge to get ourselves out of our chairs?
One recent trend in the workplace and in schools has been the standing desk. Many facilities are providing standing work stations for employees, and studies have shown that students think and attend better while using a standing desk.
In the home, this translates into doing more tasks while standing, especially those we traditionally sit down to do. Think about paying bills, reading, even having a family conversation. How can you do them without sitting? Get creative!
Of course, for those who work at home can also use standing desks or work stations to reduce the number of hours they remain in a chair, glued to their keyboards or other work.
Here are a few ideas to get yourself up out of your chair:
- Drink more water. You can’t stay seated for long if you are committed to getting up and getting a drink every hour or so. (The trick: don’t use a water bottle!)
- Think before you sit. Sitting down in a waiting room, on a train, or even during a meeting is a habitual response. Choose to stand.
- Set a reminder. If you work at a desk, set a timer to remind you to take a “standing break.”
- Use a harder chair. Without that comfortable padding, you’ll stand up more often!
A good rule of thumb is this: for every forty minutes of sitting, do twenty minutes of standing, so you spend 33 percent of your time on your feet. Here are a few more tips to keep you on your feet more often.
If for some reason, perhaps job related, you still don’t feel like you can stand up enough, try this trick that boosts your metabolism even while you sit: just move your legs.
The War On Sitting — Time