Everybody sits… but you should stand more

Everybody sits. We sit down and eat meals together, we sit down to have a talk, we sit to drive, we sit in cubicles to work, we sit while Netflix binging… You get the picture.

Everyone sits! Even doctors ;-) and doctors in training

Everyone sits! Even doctors 😉 and doctors in training

For 2016 I am challenging you to make some relatively simple lifestyle changes along with me to improve your overall health. The FIRST one I want to emphasize is standing more hours than sitting during the day. This sounds relatively simple and you may think that this is something you already do, but we all sit more than we think and it has very negative effects on our health overall.

A recent study showed that US adults on average sit approximately 15.5 waking hours a day (not including the time you are asleep)! That means if you sleep 7 hours a night and sit 15.5 hours a day, then you are only standing for 1.5 hours, YIKES! That same study found that sitting for more than 8 hours a day is associated with a whole host of negative health effects. Double Yikes!

So what really happens when we are sitting all day?

The Mayo Clinic states that increased sitting can lead to:

  • Increased weight and obesity
  • Increased risk of metabolic syndrome (a cluster of conditions including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol levels)
  • 91% increased risk of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes mellitus
  • 14% increased risk of being diagnosed with and 18% increased risk of dying from heart disease
  • 13% increased risk of diagnosis of and 17% increased risk of dying from cancer specifically breast, colon, colorectal, endometrial, and ovarian
  • Shorter life span overall

To make matters even more scary, spending a few hours a week at the gym or working out does not seem to significantly offset the risk. It decreases it slightly, but not enough to justify those 15 hours sitting binge watching the last season of Pretty Little Liars or whatever your guilty pleasure show is.

Lastly, excessive sitting has also been linked to poor posture, decreased muscle tone, increased neck and back pain, decreased productivity at work, and decreased mood overall.

See more negative effects of too much sitting here!


Now if you are the astute blog readers that I think you all are, you might be asking yourself, now Emma I cannot avoid sitting completely. I have to drive to work. I have a job that requires sitting. I am so tired at the end of the day, all I want to do is sit and watch my favorite show…

I am not suggesting that we eliminate sitting all together, but what I am suggesting is decreasing our sitting time to less than our standing time throughout the day. This requires a small amount of math, GASP, but I will give you the ‘equation.

(24 hrs – hrs of sleep at night) / 2 = goal # hrs you should stand

Example: (24 hrs – 7 hrs) / 2 = 17 / 2 = 8.5 hrs of standing per day!

 Why is standing so good?

When you stand, your body is engaging more muscles to keep you up right. This leads to increased calories being burned off, which means possible weight loss and increased energy for you. Muscle activity also triggers important cell process that breakdown fats and sugars. Overall, standing more means less stagnation and stalling of your bodies systems. Also, the more you stand, the more you decrease your risk of chronic diseases including diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

How do we do it?

No goal or lifestyle change can be accomplished without steps to get there. If you are struggling to see how you will fit more standing into your life, here are some doable ideas:

At work:

  • Take a 1-3 minute break about every 30 minutes during the day to stand or move around
  • Set a timer on your computer or phone to remind you every hour that it’s time to step away from your desk and walk down the hall
  • Instead of emailing a co-worker, chat with them over a walk
  • Schedule walking meetings or try to stand up during phone calls and meetings
  • If you can, get a standing desk or one that can move up and down

At home:

  • Stand/Exercise while watching TV or at least during the commercials
  • Stand while talking on the phone or eating lunch

In general:

  • Start by setting small standing goals, like, I am going to stand for 4 hours a day, and work your way up to 8.5 hours
  • A good goal to work up to is cutting out 2-3 hours of sitting a day

However you choose to implement your goal, let’s work towards standing more than sitting throughout the day. Improve your life! Improve your health!

I have returned! As usual, let me know what you are interested in me writing about and I will work it in!

I have returned! As usual, let me know what you are interested in me writing about and I will work it in!

My name is Emma Petshow and I am a 3rd year naturopathic medical student at the National College of Natural Medicine in Portland, OR. For more about myself, check out my bio. This blog is intended for information about preventive health and lifestyle improvement. The information contained on this blog is not to be used as medical advice. For specific medical advice you should consult your physician.

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