New research published in the European Health Journal suggests that replacing time spent sitting with standing and walking can help improve one’s metabolic levels and BMI.

A news release from the European Society of Cardiology explains that in their study, researchers gave activity monitors to 782 men and women, aged 36 to 80 years, who were taking part in the Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle Study. The monitors were capable of determining, very accurately, how long each participant spent sleeping, sitting or lying down, standing and stepping (which includes walking and running).

After providing blood samples and measurements of their blood pressure, height, weight, and waist circumference, participants each wore an activity monitor on their thigh for 24 hours a day over a 7-day period. The researchers then used a statistical technique called isotemporal analysis to estimate the potential impact on health of reallocating time from sitting to standing or stepping, the survey continues.

Genevieve Healy, PhD, senior research fellow at the School of Public Health, The University of Queensland, Australia, who led the study, states in the release that time spent standing rather than sitting was significantly associated with lower levels of blood sugar and blood fats, as well as with a significant reduction in waistline and BMI.

“While the study cannot show that less time spent sitting causes the improvements in these markers of health, the associations it reveals are consistent with what is known already about the benefits of a non-sedentary lifestyle. More work is needed to understand cause and effect,” she says in the release.

An extra 2 hours per day spent standing rather than sitting was associated with approximately 2% lower average fasting blood sugar levels and 11% lower average triglycerides (fats in the blood). Extra standing time was also associated with 0.06 mmol/L higher average levels of the “good” type of cholesterol, HDL, and a 6% lower average total/HDL cholesterol ratio, which indicates an improvement in the total amount of HDL cholesterol in relation to “bad” LDL cholesterol, the release explains.

Replacing 2 hours a day of sitting time with stepping was associated with an approximately 11% lower average BMI and a 7.5 cm smaller average waist circumference. In addition, average blood sugar levels fell by approximately 11% and average triglycerides by 14% for every 2 hours spent walking rather than sitting, while HDL cholesterol was 0.10 mmol/L higher. There was no significant effect on BMI or waistline of replacing sitting time with standing, the release continues.

Healy states in the release that the data has important public health implications, given that standing is a common behavior that usually replaces sitting, and that can be encouraged in the workplace with interventions such as sit-stand desks.

“However, it is important to say that not all sitting is bad; but if people can incorporate alternatives to sitting wherever possible, it may benefit their heart and metabolic health,” she continues in the release.

Healy notes in the release that she and her colleagues are working to encourage people to stand up more in their workplaces.

“We are also looking to increase the amount of time spent stepping as well,” she concludes in the release.

[Source(s): European Society of Cardiology, Science Daily]