If you’re reading this, stand up! The average American under 60 spends 6 to 8 hours per day sitting, according to the American Heart Association, and that increases your risk for chronic disease and even death.
And while the long-held wisdom has been that you can undo the damage of a long day of sitting with a short trip to the gym, new research is showing that isn’t true: In a study from Louisiana, people who sit half the day were 54 percent more likely to die of a heart attack, regardless off what they did the rest of the day’s hours. So start to shift your own sitting/standing ratio right now: Stand up while you read this! And check out these other five reasons you should get out of your chair more often each day.
1. Stand up to restart your fat burners.
When you’re sitting all the time, you’re burning fewer calories—not just because your body isn’t working hard, but because enzymes in the blood vessels of your muscles that are responsible for burning fat “shut off” within hours of not standing, according to scientists at the University of Missouri. When you stand up, you re-engage those enzymes and get closer to what scientists call “optimal metabolism,” where you’re burning more calories.
Think about those enzymes as you’re working during the day to find short bursts where you can stand: While taking a phone call, talking to a coworker, thinking about where to head to lunch, or mulling over the wording of an email. Every time you remove your butt from your chair, you’ll kickstart your fat-burning enzymes and get closer to a leaner, healthier body.
2. Stand up to help with circulation in your legs.
All the studies associating death risk with prolonged sitting has popularized the phrase “sitting is the new smoking.” And like smoking, sitting not only increases your risk for heart disease and death, but it messes with your circulation: When you sit too long, bloodflow is reduced to your legs, which can result in varicose veins and deep-vein thrombosis.
But just 10 minutes on your feet every few hours can help fix it: Even after six hours of sitting, scientists found that a 10-minute walk got blood moving correctly in the leg once again. Because of other health risks associated with long-term sitting, you should stand up more often than that, but try to fit in a short walk every few hours to keep blood moving below the waist.
3. Stand up to boost your creativity.
If you’re stuck on a problem at work, the old adage to take a walk and change your surroundings to think about it has actual science to back it up: Stanford scientists found that when given a test designed to measure creative thinking, people who walked on a treadmill or a path outside gave more creative responses compared to those who tried to solve problems while seated.
If you’re able to take your creativity stroll outside, you’ll also give your bones a boost: Office workers have a higher risk of Vitamin D deficiency, which can result in bone issues but also higher risks of cancer and cardiovascular disease. Step outside during the day and solve this deficiency while you’re solving work’s big problems with big new ideas.
4. Stand up and go get some cold water.
Take a walk to the office kitchen and fill a tall glass with cold water—and then do it again every hour or so—and you’ll burn more calories during the day from the walking AND the water. In a German study, drinking six cups of cold water during the day helped participants burn 50 more calories during the day while at rest compared to those who didn’t drink. Fifty calories might not seem like much, but if you changed nothing else, burning that much more could mean a five-pound weight loss in a year.
No wonder a study at Virginia Tech found that dieters who drank 16 ounces of water before meals for 12 weeks lost more weight—36 percent more weight—than study participants who skipped the pre-meal chug. So get up! Go get some water!
5. Stand up to become “active” and lose up to 20 pounds in a year.
Regular exercise can strengthen bones, reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and even death—and you don’t have to do strenuous, hour-long workouts to get these benefits. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends doing 150 minutes per week of aerobic activity, like brisk walking, and says you can do that movement in short spurts—even five to 10 minutes of walking helps push you towards that goal.
All you need to do is get in 22 total minutes of walking per day to reach 150 minutes per week, and that amount of exercise—shorter than an episode of your favorite show—can mean a big change in your waist. Depending on your pace, 22 minutes of walking can burn up to 200 extra calories per day. Do that every day for a year—with no other changes—and you can lose 20 pounds. So stop waiting. Get up… NOW!