How Standing Up at Work Affects Blood Sugar

Too much time sitting at a desk is bad for your health, no matter how much you exercise. That’s the message researchers have been spreading over the last few years – but the question is, how do those of us with desk jobs avoid these health risks? How often and for how long do you have to stand up to “reset” your clock? Do you have to move around, or get a treadmill desk? Nobody really knows the answers yet, but scientists are starting to look into it.

Most recently, an Australian study just published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise put 23 overweight office workers through two five-day work weeks. In one of the weeks, they spent eight hours a day sitting at a desk working; in the other, they alternated 30 minutes of sitting with 30 minutes of standing throughout each eight-hour day. Blood samples were analysed to see if there was any difference in insulin, glucose or triglyceride levels. The only statistically significant difference was in glucose levels after consuming a test drink, which improved by 11%.

Overall, this seems like good news. You don’t have to do jumping jacks or walk on a treadmill to mitigate some of the effects of prolonged sitting. That said, standing up for 30 minutes out of every hour is still a little more than I’d find ideal. While I realise this study was pretty laborious (getting subjects to volunteer to spend two entire weeks in your lab is no easy task!), I hope follow-up studies will explore how the effects change with difference doses of sitting. I could definitely imagine standing for about 15 minutes every hour – though I guess that depends on what workout I did the day before (or that morning)…

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