You drive to work, sit at your desk, drive home and then sit on the couch.
Countless studies have pointed to “sitting disease” affecting your health and waistline, but new research suggests that getting out of your chair for 71 minutes a day during your workday could make a difference long-term.
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Australian and Danish doctors collaborated to see how sitting less could affect health outcomes. For their study, they zeroed in on 317 office workers in 19 offices in Denmark — a country that’s implemented sit-stand desks to get employees out of their seats.
Half of the group was randomly assigned to an intervention that encouraged them to use sit-stand desks, while the other half didn’t receive any workshops or lectures about improving their health by standing.
Both groups wore a device that measured their movement during a five day workweek.
READ MORE: Why too much sitting increases risk of disease even if you exercise
At the one-month mark, the group that received the intervention sat for about 71 minutes less during an eight hour work day compared to their peers. At the three-month mark, it was about 48 minutes less sitting.
The number of steps they took during the workday climbed by seven per cent within a month and eight per cent by three months. They didn’t complain about back pain or any changes from standing more either.
Within 30 days, they saw a dip in their body fat percentage by 0.61 percentage points. It isn’t much, but considering it was the only change the workers made in their lifestyle over the course of four weeks, the researchers say it’s notable.
“A reduction in sitting time by 71 minutes per day and increases in interruptions could have positive effects and, in the long run, could be associated with reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes and all-cause mortality, especially among those who are inactive in their leisure time,” lead author, Dr. Janne Tolstrup, said.
READ MORE: 4 ways to combat sitting disease
Canadian research released last year warned that too much sedentary time is putting you at risk of disease and death — even if you exercise regularly.
“What we found was that sitting time is linked to higher risk of death, higher risk of heart disease, higher risk of cancer, cancer-related deaths, heart disease-related deaths and diabetes,” the study’s lead author, Dr. David Alter, told Global News.
Alter suggests that an average person spends more than half of his or her day being sedentary — we watch television, we work at a computer, for example. Those who don’t exercise at all have a more pronounced health risk than their counterparts who work out, he said.
READ MORE: Doctor calls on Canadians to ditch the shortcuts, add time on their feet
He says the mechanisms behind sitting and its hazards aren’t fully understood yet. Our metabolisms could slow down, we burn less energy, fat and fuel leading to excess weight. That puts us at risk of diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.
Tolstrup’s full findings were published Tuesday in the International Journal of Epidemiology.