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Standing is healthier than sitting

Standing is healthier than sitting
If you can't stand sports or any form of exercise, but your work involves lots of standing, then count your blessings. Standing is healthy, and protects against cancer and cardiovascular disease. Epidemiologist Peter Katzmarzyk of the American Pennington Biomedical Research Center writes about it in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

Lengthy periods of sitting are unhealthy, and are not counterbalanced by doing exercise. But what about standing? Is standing as unhealthy as sitting? This is the question that Katzmarzyk wanted to answer.

Katzmarzyk analysed data on 16,586 Canadians aged 18-90, who had been monitored by researchers for the 1981 Canada Fitness Survey from the early 1980s to the mid 1990s.

Standing lowers mortality
Katzmarzyk discovered that the mortality risk of the participants was lower the more they stood each day. Click on the figure below for a larger version.

Standing is healthier than sitting

Standing reduces the chance of dying from cancer, cardiovascular disease and the category 'other causes'.

Standing is healthier than sitting

Katzmarzyk split the participants into a 'recreationally active group' and a 'inactive group'. The active group did exercise in their free time that amounted to over 7.5 MET hours per week. If you walk briskly five days a week for at least half an hour, you already qualify for the active group.

Standing reduced the mortality risk among the members of the active group, but the effect was not statistically significant. This was because the positive effect of exercise outweighed the positive effect of standing.

"Sitting and standing are behaviors at the low end of the energy expenditure continuum, and neither would be considered 'physical activities", writes Katzmarzyk. "The results of this study add to this evidence by showing that individuals who are not gaining the benefits of a physically active lifestyle can at least mitigate some of the health hazards associated with physical inactivity by standing more during the day."

"Arguably, these benefits are observed at the low end of the energy expenditure continuum; however, there was a clear dose–response association observed, such that individuals standing for most of the day had a 33% lower risk of all-cause mortality compared to those who reported standing almost none of the time."

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2014 May;46(5):940-6.

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