You've probably already heard a zillion times that "sitting is the new smoking" and that it seriously increases your chance of developing diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. Chances are, you probably said, "wow, that sucks!" and kept right on sitting.
But what if we told you that doing one thing—standing up for a while during the day—could be the easiest way to prevent those sneaky extra pounds from creeping on every year?
We officially have the first evidence that standing desks can slow the increase of your body mass index (BMI, a key indicator of obesity) over a long period of time, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Public Health. Researchers found that putting standing desks in elementary school classrooms slowed the increase of the children's BMIs by an average of 5.24 percentile points over the course of two years. (Ready to invest in a standing desk? Check out these 5 Stellar Standing Desks That Are Shape Editor-Approved.)
"Most of our research and others' has looked at short-term outcomes like movement, steps, and calorie expenditure measured at a school or in a lab over days and or weeks," says Mark E. Benden CPE, Ph.D., and principal investigator for the study. "This is the first study to tie these outcomes with a true health outcome measure over years."
OK, so what does this mean for adults who sit all day? Luckily, Benden says that standing more throughout the day could slow the trajectory of weight gain seen in adults as well.
There's just one caveat: "This is NOT a weight loss tool for kids or adults," he says. "Just a habit to keep you healthier over time." (Remember: The kids in the study just had ~ less of an increase ~ in their BMIs; they didn't exactly lose weight.)
And if you already go to the gym that doesn't get you off the hook. "Exercise alone may not offset the negative health impacts of sitting for a significant part (more than eight hours) of the day," he says. "While not yet evidence-based, we do suggest breaking up sitting bouts multiple times per hour and trying to reduce your overall sitting by 15 to 25 percent per day."
That means if you're parked at your desk for eight hours straight, try to spend at least two hours standing and working, taking walking meetings, strolling to get lunch, or standing and chatting at a colleague's desk. And it's important to break that time up during the day: one study found that just one full hour of sitting without breaks impaired the major artery of the leg's ability to expand by about 50 percent. (And if you can't buy a standing desk just yet, there's good news; one study shows that walking for just two minutes each hour might actually help.)
Convinced to get off your but? We thought so. (And if you've been sitting for long hours most of your life, don't worry—there's still time to undo the damage from sitting all day.)