Background: The increase in sedentary behavior seen in modern societies is associated with an increase in the risk of cardiovascular disease. While many people remain technically active, in that they exercise for more than 150 minutes a week, the average American spends almost eight hours sitting each day. Can spending some of this time standing instead lower the risk of cardiovascular disease?
The study: This meta-analysis included nine trials (eight controlled, one uncontrolled; 877 people total) that assessed the effect of replacing sitting with standing on cardiometabolic risk factors. Five of the studies gave sit-stand desks to office workers; the other three used counselling sessions to encourage more standing. The primary outcomes were changes in weight, blood pressure, blood lipids, and glycemic indicators.
The results: The interventions resulted in more time spent standing in the treatment groups than in the control groups (1.3 hours more on average). Overall, replacing sitting with standing lowered fat mass and fasting blood glucose but did not change the other risk factors. The studies had low heterogeneity and low overall risk of bias.
Note: This study underscores the importance of low-level “activity” (e.g., standing and walking around) throughout the day. Although deliberate exercise — such as resistance training, yoga, or running — helps you stay healthy, it cannot entirely compensate for whole days spent sitting. For people who don’t have a standing desk, simply getting up and stretching or walking every 30 to 60 minutes can be beneficial.
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