March 23, 2016
Too much sitting will adversely affect your cardiovascular health and potentially how long you live. In modern societies, we all sit too much—an average of 3.2-6.8 hours of waking hours per day.1-2 I have previously written about the benefits of exercise. Briefly, these include controlling weight and prevention of high blood pressure, stroke, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, depression, and falls. But what about standing or stepping as a potential replacement for sitting for our cardiovascular health?
In a study from Australia, a subsample of participants from the 2011 to 2012 Australian Diabetes, Obesity, and Lifestyle study wore a monitor for 7 days that measured posture and recorded mean daily time sitting, standing, and stepping.3 Six hundred and ninety eight people aged 36 to 80 (mean: 57.9±9.9 years); 57% women were enrolled. Each participant had their body mass index, waist circumference, blood pressure, HbA1c, fasting glucose and lipids, and 2-hour plasma glucose determined. After adjusting for relevant confounders including age, gender, and backward elimination of any characteristic that showed evidence of association, the researchers found that for each additional 2 hours per day spent sitting was significantly associated with higher body mass index, with a relative risk of 1.03 (95% CI, 1.01-1.05), greater waist circumference of 2 cm (95% CI, 0.83-2.41), higher fasting glucose by approximately 1%, (95% CI, 1.00-1.03), and higher 2-hour plasma glucose levels by approximately 4% (95% CI, 1.01-1.06). In contrast, standing was associated with a lower BMI, waist circumference, and 2-hour plasma glucose levels, while those who were stepping more had a significantly lower BMI by 10%, lower waist circumference by 7 cm, and lower 2-hour glucose concentrations by 11%.
So, we need to cut down our routines of sitting. Start standing more as an intermediate step to cardio-metabolic health and preferably start moving. These findings also suggest that cardio fitness must include more than 30 minutes a day of regular exercise. Therefore, whether at work or at home, doing chores for just another hour will burn more calories than jogging for 60 minutes.
Mark A. Munger, PharmD, FCCP, FACC, is a Professor of Pharmacotherapy and Adjunct Professor of Internal Medicine, at the University of Utah, where he also serves as the Associate Dean, Academic Affairs for the College of Pharmacy.
1 Matthews CE, Chen KY, Freedson PS, et al. Amount of time spent in sedentary behaviors in the United States 2003-2004. Am J Epidemiol. 2008;167(7):875-881.
2. Colley RC, Garriguet D, Janssen I, Craig CL, Clarke J, Tremblay MS. Physical activity of Canadian adults: accelerometer results from the 2007 to 2009 Canadian Health Measures Survey. Health Rep. 2011;22(1):7-14.
3. Healy GN, Winkler EA, Owen N, Anuradha S, Dunstan DW. Replace sitting time with standing or stepping: associations with cardio-metabolic risk biomarkers. Eur Heart J. 2015;36(39):2643-2649.
4. Bazian. Standing ‘no healthier than sitting’. NHS choices. www.nhs.uk. 2015 Oct 13.