Don’t take this weight-loss news sitting down.
Replacing sitting with standing for six hours a day meant losing more than 20 pounds over four years for a person weighing 140 pounds, according to a study published Wednesday.
The findings are important because experts warn that hours of prolonged sitting at desks, looking at screens, and in meetings and while commuting has been linked to seriously elevated risks of obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. It’s sometimes called sitting disease or compared to the ravages of smoking.
According to research, Canadian adults spend roughly three-quarters of their waking hours sitting or reclining. Even physically active people may spend most of their work days in a chair.
The researchers analyzed results from a total of 46 studies with 1,184 participants from around the world. They were, on average, 33 years old with an average body mass index and weight of 24 (normal range) and 140 pounds. Sixty per cent of participants were men.
The research published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology found that standing still burned 0.15 calories more per minute per kilogram than sitting still. By standing for six hours a day, a 140-pound person would expend an extra 54 calories a day. With no increase in food intake, that would equate to 5.5 pounds in one year and 22 pounds in four years.
That’s the equivalent of 14 per cent of body weight and for someone of that weight who is five-foot-two inches tall, it would mean a drop in body mass index from 26.2 (considered to be in the overweight range) to 22.1 (considered to be in the healthy weight range.)
"Standing not only burns more calories, the additional muscle activity is linked to lower rates of heart attacks, strokes, and diabetes, so the benefits of standing could go beyond weight control,” said the article’s senior author Professor Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, chief of preventive cardiology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
Standing might burn even more calories than the research found, because participants were standing still.
Dr. Farzane Saeidifard, first author on the report and a researcher at the Mayo Clinic, says it was important to compare the effects of standing still with sitting still. Standing still burns calories at a significantly higher rate, but when “fidgeting activity or walking-like activities or transitions between sitting and standing and standing and sitting” are factored into the effects of standing, it amplifies energy expended, she told CTVNews.ca in an interview.
The health benefits would be even greater if those who introduce more standing into their day also added more walking, the researchers concluded.
But standing comes with potential concerns for things like prolonged pressure on muscles and blood vessels, said Saeidifard, so more study is needed.
“Standing has its own complications and difficulties for some people. Prolonged standing can’t just be prescribed for anyone in the world. We have to be careful about that.”