10/04/2012 08:10 am ET Updated Dec 04, 2012

Sit Less, Stand More: Your Health Depends On It


Alarm goes off. Maybe you hit the snooze button. Eventually a majority of us wake up, get ready for work, and head into the office. With a few deviations here or there, the rest of the day is probably pretty predictable: You sit down at your desk, open up your email, and begin to work. Wash, rinse, repeat. Day after day, we sit down at our desks for extended periods of time. Does this routine sound familiar? Then sound another alarm because it's cause for concern.

Nine-to-fivers beware! Extended periods of sitting, typical of the average desk job, have long been linked with harmful health outcomes, but sitting has now been linked with a higher risk of developing kidney disease, according to new research.

Even if you don't have a desk job, it doesn't mean you're off the hook. It's not only at work where we sit. Typically people sit much more than they even realize -- on the couch while watching TV or reading, while eating meals, while getting to and from work (whether driving or riding a bus or train) -- to name just a few examples.

Where do you fall on the sitting spectrum? This study classified low levels of sitting time as under three hours a day, moderate levels of sitting time as three to eight hours, and high levels of sitting as more than eight hours of sitting each day. The bottom line is that most people do not spend enough time upright and it has negative implications for our health.

Humans are upright for a reason. Our heart and cardiovascular system have been adapted to the upright position. Even better bowel function is linked with the upright position -- patients who are hospitalized for bed rest frequently have major problems with regularity. Physical activity leads to improved cardiovascular outcomes and improves our overall energy and endurance. It also strengthens bones and prevents osteoporosis. When body parts are not used they can become weakened.

Unfortunately, increased sitting time is linked with poorer health outcomes despite the amount of physical activity you engage in. That's not to say that being active doesn't matter. It just means that even in those who are active, the health risk of increased sitting is important and shouldn't be ignored. An otherwise active person who sits for a large portion of his or her day is at higher risk for developing kidney disease than an active person who does not sit for most of his or her day.

So in addition to working out and being active, get up and take a stand! Here are five easy tweaks you can make to your daily routine to cut your sitting time and your risk of developing kidney disease.

  1. Get a standing or height-adjustable desk. It's become a trend, so jump on the bandwagon. It's an easy way to reverse the amount of time sitting each day. Instead of standing as a break from sitting, you can sit when you need a break from standing. Eventually your body will adjust and it will feel more natural to stand throughout the day.
  2. Saunter over to the water cooler. As a bonus, it's a way to increase the amount of H2O that you drink.
  3. Go for a walk. Those with desk jobs need to break up the day with periods of standing and moving. Instead of using that inter-office mail envelope, walk a document to a coworker's desk. Do a lap around your floor. Get outside. Grab coffee. All that matters is that you break up your day. Get creative and find a way.
  4. Stand. Period. During presentations and meetings, at the bar during happy hour, while performing chores around the house, and even while playing video games. The possibilities are endless. Whenever there is an opportunity, do your body and long-term health a big favor and stand up.
  5. Take it a step farther and take the stairs. Instead of riding the elevator, step it up a notch and take the stairs. Instead of riding the escalator, walk up it if there are no stairs available. Whether running errands around town, headed to a meeting or just moving around the house, incorporate more steps into your day.

How do you take a stand? What do you do to break up the monotony of your day? Share your tips in the comments to help others sit less and stand more!

For more by Leslie Spry, M.D., FACP, click here.

Fore more on personal health, click here.