Most of our waking hours are spent sitting down. We drive or sit on trains to get to work, and once we’re there, we're glued to our chairs until we get home — where another round of sitting commences.
All of that sedentary behavior is contributing to obesity and some of the chronic problems associated with excess weight. But can sitting less really help our health?
To find out, Danish and Australian researchers went to 19 offices in Denmark — a country where all office workers have sit-stand desks (yet most don't use the stand option). They randomly assigned 317 people to either get more encouragement to incorporate more standing during their day or to receive no additional education about the benefits of sitting less.
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After just one month, the researchers report in the International Journal of Epidemiology, people who used the sit-stand desks sat about 71 minutes less per day than those who didn't use them, and walked about 7% more. "We expected people to sit about an hour less a day, but they actually did more, which was really positive," says Ida Hogstedt Danquah, lead author of the study from the National Institute of Public Health and University of Southern Denmark.
Even more encouraging was the finding that the group that sat less also had about a half-percent less body fat after three months, compared with the group that sat more.
While it’s not likely that getting up from your chair will become a major source of weight loss, the results point to yet another benefit that sitting less may have on health. Simply by being out of your chair, say experts, you’re more likely to move a bit more, whether it’s walking or fidgeting, and that can contribute to burning more calories.