Stand up for yourself! Study finds standing often can offset effects of inactive lifestyle

GRANADA, Spain — It’s hard to believe in today’s day and age, but humans weren’t actually meant to spend all that much time sitting on a daily basis. Our early ancestors were constantly on the move, either avoiding predators or migrating to a more habitable environment, and our bodies evolved accordingly. Still, you wouldn’t know that judging by today’s norms; most people spend their days simply moving from one chair to the next. All of that sitting can cause a variety of health problems, but a new study is proposing a rather simple solution: stand up for your health.

According to researchers from the University of Granada in Spain, spending more time standing up can help our bodies burn more energy and offset the negative health effects of an inactive lifestyle. Just by standing instead of sitting or lying down, our bodies burn 45 more calories every six hours.

The study’s author recommend the widespread adoption of standing desks, which allow employees to stand while they work in an office setting. Adjustable-height standing desks are already quite common in Nordic countries (Norway, Sweden, etc.), but researchers say these desks should be utilized all over the world.

“We Spaniards spend between 8 and 10 hours sitting or lying down each day, not counting the hours we are asleep. Therefore, if we take steps to combat a sedentary lifestyle by making small lifestyle changes, such as spending more time standing, this could reduce the risk of developing diseases such as obesity or Type 2 diabetes,” comments Francisco J. Amaro-Gahete, the study’s main author and a PhD Biomedicine student at the University of Granada, in a university release.

Researchers took a sample of 53 young adults, and separated them into two groups, “energy savers” or “energy spenders,” depending on the amount of energy each person typically used while switching from sitting or lying to standing up.

“Savers consume very little energy in their activities and, therefore, the difference between sitting/lying or standing is practically nil for them. But energy spenders burn approximately 10% more energy when they switch from sitting or lying to standing,” Amaro explains.

The research team aren’t quite sure why some people spend more energy than others, and say it is like trying to answer why some people are able to lose weight more easily than others. However, one factor that appears to play a significant role is muscle mass. People with more muscle mass use more energy than people with less muscle mass.

“It is really important to change your position,” recommends Jonatan Ruiz, one of the study’s authors. “If a person were to get up, take 10 steps, and sit down again, it appears that the effects of a sedentary lifestyle would be greatly reduced. Therefore, we must educate our school-age children and young people, as well as teachers, about the importance of avoiding spending long periods of time sitting down to considerably reduce the negative consequences of a sedentary lifestyle such as excess weight and obesity, or the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.”

The study is published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE.