Being healthier may be found in something as simple as standing more and sitting less at work, said a study. Replacing sitting time with standing time appeared to improve sugar, fat and cholesterol levels in the blood, researchers wrote in the European Heart Journal.
The findings suggest that making small changes to a sedentary lifestyle can have a big impact on health—and that you don't need to go as far as taking up marathon running.
A study of nearly 800 men and women in Australia revealed a clear association between less sitting and better health markers.
"An extra two hours per day spent standing rather than sitting was associated with approximately two percent lower average fasting blood sugar levels and 11 per cent lower average triglycerides (fats in the blood)," said a press statement.
It was also associated with higher levels of "good" cholesterol, HDL.
Replacing two hours of sitting time with actual activity in the form of "stepping" was even better, with lower blood fat and sugar scores as well as an 11 per cent lower average Body Mass Index and a 7.5-centimetre smaller average waist circumference.
"These findings provide important preliminary evidence on the potential benefits of standing for cardio-metabolic risk biomarkers," said the study.
"This has important public health implications given that standing is a common behaviour."
The team point to the potential benefits of more standing at the workplace, including through such measures as "standing desks".
Adults in today's world are highly sedentary, with average self-reported sitting time ranging from 3.2 to 6.8 hours per day in Europe, said the study. About 55 to 69 per cent of adult waking hours are sedentary.
But there has been little research into the potential benefits of standing, as opposed to moving, to replace sitting.
The study took blood, height and weight measurements from the participants, gave them an activity monitor for a week, and then compared the health data to how much each person moved... or not.
In an editorial published with the study, Francisco Lopez-Jimenez of the Mayo College of Medicine in Minnesota, said it showed that "the fight against sedentary behaviour cannot be won based only on the promotion of regular exercise."
"A person walking while at work for two hours, standing for another four hours, and performing some daily chores at home for another hour will burn more calories than jogging or running for 60 minutes."