Saturday 1 October 2016

Stand and deliver, workers urged

Published 05/06/2015 | 19:31

Dr John Buckley with Virgin Media Angel Gemma Winslade at an adjustable height desk (Virgin Media/PA)
Dr John Buckley with Virgin Media Angel Gemma Winslade at an adjustable height desk (Virgin Media/PA)

Office workers trapped behind their desks all day should push away their chairs and work standing up, according to an exercise scientist.

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Professor John Buckley, from the University of Chester, said standing up for three hours extra a day would burn off 8lb of fat each year.

He was speaking at an event at the Cheltenham Science Festival and that audience heard that Britons spend 19 hours a day sitting around or lying down.

Prof Buckley, who often stands at his desk at work, said this upright stance was championed by Ernest Hemingway, whose vigorous prose was matched by this more physical approach to writing.

"The chair is designed to rest because we are designed to be active all day long and now it is a staple activity of our lives," he said.

"Even if you do 150 minutes of exercise a week but you sit too much it is a bit like being an exercising smoker.

"There is evidence accumulating on the ills of sitting. Sitting is a natural behaviour, designed for rest and recovery, but it has become a staple of our daily lives.

"There is starting to be some evidence showing that standing up for short periods of time on a regular basis or standing for a prolonged period of time, say two or three hours, while you do your work and then take a break, does reduce those ills."

In recent years there have been several reports warning about the sedentary nature of work and recreation.

One study made a strong connection between too much sitting down and an increased risk of diabetes and another project warned that a sedentary lifestyle could be causing as many deaths as smoking.

Prof Buckley, who is professor of applied exercise science, said that switching would reduce obesity and improve circulation as standing up for three hours would burn up to 180 calories.

"You shouldn't be sitting for 45 minutes at any one time, so at least stand up," he said.

"By standing up you have burned one calorie. If you sit down your muscles have to work to ease you back into that chair, so you have burned another calorie doing that.

"For every minute I stand I am burning between a half and one calorie more than someone sitting down. If you add that up over two or three hours a day in a year that is the equivalent of about 8lbs of fat.

"We don't have clear evidence on this, is perhaps the reason people are expanding half a stone a year, which is 7lb, might be found in that little change in people's behaviour on a more regular basis."

Fellow panel member, the journalist and documentary maker Michael Mosley, told the event there was an "unrealistic expectation" in the belief that exercise alone without healthy eating helps you lose weight.

"The sad, sad thing about exercise is that it almost never does," Mr Mosley, who popularized the 5:2 diet, said.

"If you are a 10 stone woman and you burn 90 calories for every mile you run then you have to run two miles for every glass of wine you drink, run three miles for a Starbucks smoothie and five miles for a muffin.

"It is probably better to put the muffin down."

He added: "There are quite considerable benefits from simply standing up. I now get up walk where I can, every 30 minutes or so. I always take the stairs and I try and do 10,000 steps a day."

Press Association

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