Can Using A Standing Desk Help With Diabetes Management?

Prolonged sitting, or inactive muscle use, has been associated with an elevated risk of chronic health problems, including type 2 diabetes. One solution for those with sedentary jobs is to do more work while standing up. Could using a standing desk or workstation for part of the day help with diabetes issues such as weight maintenance, insulin resistance, glucose control, and cardiovascular health?

Weighing In

Current research on the effects of sitting for long periods suggests that while standing more benefits diabetes management, any short-term impact on weight loss may be negligible.

A recent study measuring calories burned while performing different office activities revealed:

  • Sitting uses about 80 calories an hour, whether a person is typing or sitting still.
  • Standing burns about 88 calories an hour. So, standing for four hours during a workday would maybe consume an extra 35 calories.

Clearly, if a person’s immediate goal is to lose weight standing more often will be marginally helpful. However, standing does increase the likelihood an individual will move about (e.g., shift their weight, pace), raising calorie expenditure somewhat.

For significant weight reduction a standing workstation would have to incorporate a treadmill, but some other diabetes-related standing desk benefits do not require walking while working.

When We Sit

According to Dr. I-Min Lee, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School,
some research indicates extended sitting has harmful effects on sugar and fat metabolism, both of which affect a person’s risk of diabetes and heart disease.

For instance, after two days of sustained inactivity a University of Massachusetts study found that participants’ insulin response was on the decline, metabolic muscle activity slowed, oxidative stress was increasing, and DNA repair mechanisms had been disrupted.

Researchers in Australia discovered that plasma insulin and glucose levels were significantly higher (20 percent) when participants sat for five consecutive hours, compared to those sitting with light or moderate activity breaks at 20-minute intervals.

Other studies indicate:

  • After sitting for three hours people undergo a 50 percent drop in artery dilation, decreasing blood flow.
  • After 24 hours of mostly sitting, insulin is 40 percent less effective in managing blood sugar.
  • After two weeks of sitting for six hours per day levels of LDL cholesterol and other fatty substances rise, and enzymes responsible for breaking down fats decrease.
  • With extended sitting the electrical activity in our muscles declines, muscles begin to break down, and contractions weaken—impeding blood flow to the heart.

Constant sitting for ten or more years is believed to raise the risk of heart disease by 64 percent.

Taking A Stand For Health

As dire as the effects of sitting sound, the solution is simple. Within 90 seconds of standing up and carrying our body’s weight cellular and muscular systems responsible for utilizing insulin, and processing blood glucose, triglycerides, and cholesterol are initiated. Arteries dilate, and our muscles engage pushing more fuel into our cells.

These perks of standing can be gained by getting out of our chair every 20 or 30 minutes to stretch or move about. Those of us who lose track of time when focused on work will need to set a timer or should consider using a standing desk to get us off our derrieres during the workday.

Need more incentive? At least one experiment shows that standing at work significantly boosts productivity, so working while on our feet not only improves health, it may help us get more done as well.

Sources: Mercola Fitness, Med Page Today, PLOS
Photo: Pexels

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