We’re always looking for research to back up our fondness for standing desks. However, it’s beginning to look like standing isn’t necessarily a cure for sitting down all day. So, what is?
(Update: Okay, other researchers say standing can make you smarter and improve your memory.)
Sitting all day is killing us.
On SmallBusiness.com, we’ve reported on studies about the harms of sitting at a desk all day long:
- Increased risk for diabetes
- Heart disease
- Kidney problems
- Premature death
- Even certain types of cancer
Even exercising before or after work doesn’t help.
We’ve also reported on a study that suggests exercising before or after work doesn’t negate the harm done by sitting all day. Researchers suggest that on days we exercise away from the office can subconsciously convince us that it’s okay to sit even longer stretches at our desks.
What? Standing throughout the day isn’t a cure for sitting throughout day.
To test the assumption that standing once an hour can counter the harms of sitting all day, researchers at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and other institutions recently used data available from the massive National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which annually asks a cross section of Americans about how they eat, exercise, feel and generally conduct their lives. (via: NYTimes.com)
What they discovered:
People who spend a few minutes hourly doing low-intensity activities like standing did not show much if any decline in death risk, compared with those who sat the most.
Then, what works if you want to counter the bad things that come from sitting all day?
This is where the research is a bit fuzzy, depending more on conjecture and relationships between facts that may or may-not have anything to do with each other. But with the caveat that we’ll likely be posting something in a few months saying that new research suggests a different outcome, here are a couple of suggestions based on the “observational findings” from the research:
- Replace as little as two minutes of sitting each hour with gentle walking and you may gain a substantial benefit in terms of mortality risk.
- Someone who is already walking for two minutes per hour and adds two more minutes will benefit even more.
Why? The best guess from researchers: Strolling instead of sitting increases the number of calories that someone burns, potentially contributing to weight loss and other metabolic changes, which then affect mortality risk.
Bottom Line: Getting up and walking once an hour isn’t going to hurt you, unless, of course, you’re walking to the smoking area outside.