The memo is out: when at work, stand for a minimum two hours if you want a healthier, longer life. If you can increase the standing time to four hours, it will do wonders with your otherwise sedentary desk life, suggests fresh British health guidelines.
Workers must be on their feet for a minimum of two hours daily during office hours to avoid health risks, the guidelines issued by Public Health England and a non-profit organization Active Working CIC and published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine revealed.
But why just the office? What about someone who travels in a Metro train or a bus and stands for hours on way and back from office? Will he or she reap the same health benefit as standing in office?
"Standing has scientifically proven to burn more calories than sitting, be in office or in the Metro train. In a standing position, all the limbs are active and hence more calories are burnt in a standing position than just sitting," R.K. Singal, director (internal medicine) at New Delhi's BLK Super Specialty Hospital, told IANS.
The extra edge for standing while in office is that you can also go for a light walk to the cafeteria or the meeting room and burn even more calories which is not possible in the Metro or in a bus.
So, what does standing do to us in terms of burning calories. Standing quietly, a 68-kg person will burn about 114 calories per hour - or 912 calories in eight hours, says a report by the American Council on Exercise (ACE).
The same person will burn 147 calories per hour - or 1,176 calories in eight hours - standing while performing desk work - 33 more calories per hour than standing quietly, reveal the findings from ACE, a nonprofit fitness certification, education and training provider in the US.
"I will suggest to build standing capacity gradually over time, starting with one hour daily to two hours and eventually four hours a day to reap health benefits," Singal said.
But first, learn the right posture for standing. "While standing, keep your shoulders and back relaxed, Hold your head straight, Try to keep your chest out and abdominal squeezed in. Stand tall and straight," Singal advised.
Lately, treadmills and standing desks have become a fad among companies across the world.
According to exercise science professor James LeCheminant and neuroscientist Michael Larson from Utah-based Brigham Young University, workers on treadmill desks perform cognitive tasks nearly as well as those at sitting desks despite the fact that they are walking in between.
Ritika Samaddar, head (dietetics and nutrition) at Max Super Speciality Hospital in New Delhi, said that it is always advisable to be on your feet as it helps to burn more calories as compared to sitting.
"Small changes in your activity pattern helps burn more calories, like walk while you talk on smartphone and move your hands during the conversation," Samaddar said.
Incorporate small changes like getting up from your seat every half-an-hour and standing on your feet will make you healthier and also help lose weight provided you also eat healthy, she suggested.
Here is a cautionary note too.
Standing or sitting for a very long time in one position can be dangerous. The muscles need to relax in between periods of strain. Standing for too long does not give that relaxation time and the legs might pain.
"It puts a lot of pressure on knee joint and hinders the normal lubrication of the joint which might lead to tear in the knee joint," Singal explained.
Standing for too long can also cause varicose veins (that lie under the skin of the legs). Severe long-standing varicose veins can lead to leg swelling, venous eczema, skin thickening and ulceration.
"Long standing causes aching legs and swelling and can also affect our spine. One should avoid standing for long hours," advises Dr Deepak Verma, general physician from Columbia Asia Hospital-Ghaziabad.
Just do not sit or stand in one position for more than 15 minutes, Verma adds. So shun sitting and stand wherever you get a chance - from office to the Metro. Just don't overdo it.