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Health Benefits of Standing

Active standing can help you burn more calories and reduce diabetes risk.

Woman using benefits of standing at work

You know that being active is vital for your health. That means sitting less, standing more and moving a lot during your waking hours. Researchers have recently explored the benefits of standing and quantified that regularly getting up and sitting down (sit-to-stand) during the day will also lessen your risk for type 2 diabetes and obesity.

Len Kravitz, PhD, professor and program coordinator of exercise science at the University of New Mexico and recipient of its Outstanding Teacher of the Year award, brings the research to life and offers strategies to help you stand up for better health.

Burn More Calories

Júdice et al. (2016) recruited 50 volunteers, ages 20–64 with no known diseases, to fulfill three randomized 10-minute conditions in one session: 1) spending 10 minutes standing motionless; 2) spending 10 minutes seated in a chair, motionless; and 3) performing sit-stand-sit transitions during the 10 minutes (standing up from a seated position and returning to the seated position in one single-action movement) at a rate of once per minute (10 times total).

The researchers found that completing those 10 sit-stand-sit transitions expended 32% more energy than just sitting for 10 minutes (about 3.2 kilocalories). As a comparison, previous research has shown that, on average, a typical office worker transitions from sitting to standing (and then returns to sitting) 52 times a day, using about 16.6 kcal in energy expenditure for that workday.

Take-home message. These benefits of standing are a great place to start! While it may seem like a small amount of calories, over the long run, increasing the number of these sit-to-stand transitions daily will contribute positively to using more calories.

See also: Break Up a Sedentary Day With Active Standing

Thwart Diabetes

Little is known about type 2 diabetes prevention in adults over the age of 75, and moderate levels of physical activity may be too challenging for some to achieve, but an investigation by Bellettier et al. (2019) provides some thought-provoking findings.

Researchers tracked 6,116 women ages 63–99 using accelerometers (devices designed to objectively quantify physical activity) over 24 hours a day for up to 7 days. A major finding was that the women who were most sedentary on a daily basis had two times higher odds of having diabetes than the women who were least sedentary.

Why? When you sit for long periods without getting up, the major weight-bearing muscles of the legs are not contracting. With no muscle contractions, these muscles cannot efficiently utilize the sugars and fats circulating in the blood. Sustained over time, this leads to overweight/obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Take-home message.  This is great motivation! Older adults can (and should) break up long sitting bouts with light-to-moderate activity because this appears to be highly associated with the protection against the development of type 2 diabetes (and with its management).

See also: Research Review: Pros and Cons of Standing

10 Quick Ways to Disrupt Sustained Sitting

  1. Get up and move after reading 4, 6 or 8 pages.
  2. Stand and move every time you change television channels.
  3. Do heel raises while teeth-brushing or hand-washing.
  4. Take a brief walking break after each meal or snack.
  5. Each time you drink water, take a movement break as well.
  6. Instead of emailing colleagues in your building, walk to their workspace and speak to them.
  7. Every 30 minutes, get up from sitting and move for 3 minutes.
  8. Try brief exercise bouts at home or at work. For example, do 10 partial squats followed by 20 alternating knee lifts.
  9. When the phone rings, stand up to answer, and keep moving during your conversation.
  10. Stand and move every time you check your mobile device for text messages.

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