World Half Full
Standing up for yourself
The people who favour standing up at the desk rather than sitting down all the time might be right after all. A new Finnish study has found that more time spent standing up might help prevent chronic health conditions, including type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
Researchers at the Turku PET Centre and the UKK Institute have found a link between insulin sensitivity and a lack of physical movement and fitness in inactive working-age adults. Being overweight can disrupt normal insulin function — which regulates both energy metabolism and blood sugar — and can lead to reduced insulin sensitivity. And insulin sensitivity is affected by our level of regular physical activity.
The study — published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport — found that a too-high percentage of body fat was a more important factor in insulin sensitivity than physical activity, fitness, or the amount of time spent sitting. However, the researchers found that when we stand we have better insulin sensitivity even if we don’t get much daily physical activity, or our fitness level is poor, or we’re overweight.
“This association has not been shown before. These findings further encourage replacing a part of daily sitting time with standing,” says doctoral candidate Taru Garthwaite from the University of Turku. She says if people can’t or don’t get enough physical activity in their day, increasing their standing time may help ease or even prevent illness.
The researchers now want to investigate how changes in daily activity and sedentariness affect metabolism and cardiovascular and metabolic disease risk factors by comparing two groups in a longer study.
“Our aim is to see if reducing daily sitting time by an hour has an impact on energy metabolism and fat accumulation in the liver and the whole body, for example, in addition to insulin sensitivity and blood sugar regulation,” says Garthwaite.
So, the message is: physical activity is best, but if you’re overweight and less likely to be physically active, standing up for some of your time is better than sitting around all day. Better still, be active and stand when you can.
PHOTO Alexander Naglestad