On Your Feet for Heart Health

Standing rather than sitting may improve heart health

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Will all the office couch potatoes please stand up? Your heart may thank you for it.

A new study from Australia — that looked at how sitting, standing and stepping may affect heart health, weight and fitness — found that just two hours of standing instead of sitting may decrease blood sugar and blood fat levels.

"We found that time spent standing rather than sitting was significantly associated with lower levels of blood sugar and blood fats," said senior study author Genevieve Healy, PhD, of the University of Queensland, in a press release. "Replacing sitting time with stepping was also associated with a significant reduction in waistline and BMI.”

Interventional Cardiologist Jeffrey M. Schussler, MD, of Baylor Heart and Vascular Hospital and Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas, TX, told dailyRx News, "Even small incremental increases in exercise help improve overall cardiovascular outcomes. People who have predominantly sedentary jobs are particularly at risk, and it would appear that changing the position in which you work (standing or walking instead of sitting) can help."

Dr. Healy and team gave activity monitors to 782 men and women ages 36 to 80.

These monitors determined exactly how much time the patients spent sleeping, standing, sitting or stepping, which included walking and running.

The patients provided blood samples and other data like height, weight and blood pressure.

These men and women wore the monitors 24 hours a day for seven days.

Dr. Healy and team then used a technique called isotemporal substitution analysis to see what happened when these patients spent more time standing or stepping.

Just two extra hours of standing instead of sitting each day appeared to decrease blood sugar levels by 2 percent and decrease blood fat (triglyceride) levels by 11 percent.

When the two hours of sitting were replaced with stepping, the patients' average body mass index (BMI) dropped 11 percent. BMI is a measure of body fat that compares weight to height.

"These findings provide important preliminary evidence that strategies to increase the amount of time spent standing or walking rather than sitting may benefit the heart and metabolism of many people," Dr. Healy said.

In a related editorial, Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, MD, of the Mayo Clinic, wrote, "The fight against sedentary behavior cannot be won based only on the promotion of regular exercise. A person walking while at work for two hours, standing for another four hours, and performing some daily chores at home for another hour will burn more calories than jogging or running for 60 minutes."

According to Dr. Lopez-Jimenez, being sedentary is often considered a sign of wealth — poorer people are more likely to walk, while wealthier people ride in or drive cars.

"The unintended consequences of modern life promoting sedentary behaviors can be reversed," Dr. Lopez-Jimenez wrote. "Health care providers, policy makers and people in general need to stand up for this. Literally."

This study was published in the July issue of The European Heart Journal.

The National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia, the Centres of Research Excellence, the Heart Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship and the Victorian Government’s OIS Program funded this research.

No conflicts of interest were disclosed.

Review Date: 
July 30, 2015
Last Updated:
July 31, 2015