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Is standing healthier than sitting?

If, like many Americans, you spend a significant amount of time sitting throughout the day, then the following may be uncomfortable to read. A growing body of scientific evidence suggests that being sedentary for much of the day can increase your risk for certain health conditions, such as Type 2 diabetes and obesity, and shorten life expectancy.

Even getting the recommended amount of daily physical activity may not be beneficial enough. As William Haskell, PhD, a Stanford professor emeritus of medicine, explains today in a San Francisco Chronicle article, "Doing 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise probably doesn't wipe out all of the negative health consequences of sitting 12 to 16 hours a day." But hitting the gym is better, "than if you sit all day and don't do anything else," he added.

But for those on the computer much of the day, what about switching from a conventional desk to a standing desk? Could making this change boost health and longevity? Haskell offers his perspective further down in the story:

Stanford's Haskell is skeptical about the health benefits of simply standing at a desk, noting that no studies have proved that people who do so lose more weight than their sitting counterparts.

"If you're going to take a break, I think we have a lot more evidence that you probably should be moving about," he said.

That could entail walking somewhere, getting a drink of water, talking to someone down the hall or running an errand - even if for just two minutes.

Haskell has calculated that if you walk away from your desk for two minutes an hour of each workday, you would avoid gaining the caloric equivalent of 11 pounds over a decade.

"I'm a strong believer," he said, "that every little bit helps."

Previously: How sedentary behavior affects your healthStudy shows frequent breaks from sitting may improve heart health, weight loss and Series looks at the physiology of sedentary behavior and Stanford hosts conference on the science of sedentary behavior

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