Australian researchers tracked the activity of 782 men and women between 38 to 80 years of age all part of the Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle study. They were given activity monitors to accurately track sleep hours, time sitting or lying down and standing and stepping. Individuals provided blood samples and measured their blood pressure, height, weight, and waist size. By using statistical techniques researchers were able to estimate the impact of their habits on their overall health.
“We found that time spent standing rather than sitting was significantly associated with lower levels of blood sugar and blood fats. Replacing sitting time with stepping was also associated with a significant reduction in waistline and BMI, said Genevieve Healy, who led the study.
“While the study cannot show that less time spent sitting causes the improvements in these markers of health, the associations it reveals are consistent with what is known already about the benefits of a non-sedentary lifestyle. More work is needed to understand cause and effect,” she said.
Spending an extra two hours standing each day was associated with lowering fasting blood sugar by two percent, 11 percent reduction in triglycerides, and a six percent reduction in total/HDL cholesterol ratio.
Extra benefits were seen when standing was replaced with stepping. Body mass index was reduced 11 percent, blood sugar lowered 11 percent and triglycerides dropped 14 percent.
Healy said the study suggests the amount of time standing or walking, instead of sitting can benefit the heart and metabolism.
“Get up for your heart health and move for your waistline.”
Up until this point, it has been often said that walking is beneficial to health, but results relating replacing sitting with standing or walking have not been examined. Researchers feel that longer, more extensive studies of this caliber need to be conducted to include a wider age group to fully understand the effects.
“[The study] provides an important addition to the wealth of scientific evidence highlighting the importance of avoiding sedentary behavior,” wrote Professor Francisco Lopez-Jimenez from the Mayo Clinic.
“The fight against sedentary behavior cannot be won based only on the promotion of regular exercise and that while exercise should continue to be recommended, it is important to promote non-sedentary behavior in everyday life.”
He said modern life promotes sedentary behaviors that can be reversed.
“Health care providers, policy makers and people in general need to stand up for this. Literally.”
The findings were published in the European Heart Journal.