There has been a lot of talk recently about how most of us sit too much and are active too little. I have personally been on a mission to find ways to decrease my sitting time.
As someone who works from home at a computer, I am bothered by the amount of time I spend in a chair. So I’ve recently made a bigger effort to take more breaks to get up and walk around, stand at my countertop (a makeshift standing desk) as I work, and generally be more active throughout the day.
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We have recently reported on some of the reasons why sitting is bad for you; we’ve shown how standing desks benefit kids and adults by increasing activity levels; and we’ve told you how sitting too much might contribute to anxiety levels.
Now I’ll share with you yet another reason to get out of your chair; the benefits of standing vs. sitting also include lowering your heart disease risk by helping to keep cholesterol and triglyceride levels in check.
Replacing sitting with standing can reduce your heart disease risk
Sitting time is associated with a range of diseases, and even increased mortality rates. A study from July 2015 sheds some light on how sitting too much might be linked to heart health. Researchers from Australia looked at data from about 700 men and women aged 36 to 80 years old. The participants wore sensors that measured how often they sat, stood, or stepped.
The results of the study showed that for every two hours of sitting time replaced with standing time each day, participants had 11% lower triglyceride levels, a 6% lower total/HDL-cholesterol ratio, and 0.06 mmol/L higher HDL-cholesterol. They also had 2% lower fasting glucose levels.
Replacing sitting time with stepping had even more significant benefits. For every two hours per day that people stepped rather than sat, they had 14% lower triglycerides and 0.10 mmol/L higher HDL-cholesterol. Additionally, BMI was reduced by 11% and waist circumference was reduced by 7.5 cm.
Elevated cholesterol, triglyceride, and glucose levels can all contribute to your risk for heart disease, as can being overweight. The results of this study show that by replacing time spent sitting with time spent either standing or walking can have significant benefits on your cardiovascular disease risk.
This isn’t the first study to see an association between sedentary activities and cholesterol and triglyceride levels. For example, a study in Lipids in Health and Disease found that people who engaged in at least four hours of screen time per day had significantly lower HDL-cholesterol levels. Those in the highest screen time category also had significantly higher triglyceride levels.
Tips for getting on your feet more
It can be hard to avoid sitting a lot during the day. But breaking up your sitting time with either standing or walking can make significant improvements in your health. Even little habitual changes can make a big difference.
- If you work in an office or you are a student, consider trying a standing desk or a treadmill desk.
- Every half-hour, make an effort to get up and walk around for a few minutes.
- If you work in an office building, use the restrooms that are the farthest away, including those on different floors.
- Use part of your lunch break to take a walk outside.
- Stand up at meetings or hold walking meetings.
- Park as far away from your destination as possible and walk.
- Visit colleagues instead of sending an email.
- If you’re at home, make multiple trips up and down the stairs instead of combining tasks into one.
- Before and after work or school, engage in some form of physical activity like walking, jogging, swimming, or playing a sport.
- Do an active chore daily, such as vacuuming, mowing the lawn, or dusting.
- When on the phone, pace around rather than sit.
- Limit TV and screen time and replace them with something more active. Do simple exercises while you watch TV, like walking in place or using a treadmill. During commercials, take a walk around the house, up and down the stairs, or even do something like jumping jacks or marching in place.
The less time you spend sitting, the better off you’ll be.
Share your experience
How do you stay active throughout the day? Share your ideas for sitting less in the comments section below.