The dilemma: Study after study shows that prolonged sitting leads not only to an expanded waist and greater body mass index, but can also put us at risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, bowel cancer and—gulp—a shorter life span. But anyone who works on their feet also knows that standing for long periods can cause swollen feet and legs, varicose veins, knee problems, lower back pain, muscle soreness, bunions and crushing fatigue at the day's end. So...should you invest in that standing desk?
The advice: This is a tricky question, says Marc Hamilton, PhD, an inactivity physiologist at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The research from his lab and others confirms that the longer you sit, the more unhealthy it is, and even intense bouts of exercise fail to provide adequate protection. Surprisingly, though, Hamilton cautions against substituting standing for sitting, and he says he often reminds people of the physical issues with being vertical all day. "We're still trying to determine exactly how much sitting is too much, and what 'dose' of standing and walking you need to get each day," he says. Hamilton says to stay tuned for more research results, potentially as early as next year. In the meantime, we know that most people sit because it's comfortable, and that they do it not only at work but also before, afterward and on weekends. Because most standing hazards are easy to identify (you'll notice your back aching before you'll pick up on your increased risk of diabetes), it makes sense to do as much standing and walking as you can comfortably handle. Create a more active routine with these simple changes.
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