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Here’s how long you should spend on your feet for better heart health

File photo. Mike Medby / Mood Board / Rex Features

Interested in a tighter waist, smaller pants size and lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels? Australian doctors say they’ve figured out how long you should be standing and moving around daily to improve your heart health.

Health officials called for 10,000 steps a day, but the new findings may be easier to track. The magic number is two hours of standing or moving around instead of sitting per day, University of Queensland researchers say.

“This has important public health implications, given that standing is a common behaviour that usually replaces sitting, and that can be encouraged in the workplace with interventions such as sit-stand desks,” said Dr. Genevieve Healy, a senior research fellow at the university’s School of Public Health.

“Get up for your heart health and move for your waistline,” she said.

READ MORE: 4 ways to combat sitting disease

The Australian study, published Thursday night in the European Heart Journal, had nearly 800 men and women between 36 and 80 years old track their activity with devices. The monitors closely tracked how much time each volunteer was sleeping, sitting, lying down, standing and stepping.

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The group also handed over blood samples, and data on their blood pressure, height, weight and waist circumference.

The Queensland doctors say that after scouring the data they got back from their volunteers, an extra two hours per day spent standing rather than sitting helped with a handful of factors: there was a two per cent lower average in blood sugar levels, triglycerides – or fat in the blood – were lower by about 11 per cent on average, and HDL – or good cholesterol – increased while LDL – or bad cholesterol – took a dip.

Those who spent an extra two hours walking or running instead of being parked in seats had, on average, an 11 per cent lower body mass index and a 7.5-centimetre-smaller waist circumference. But there was no significant tie between BMI or waist size and simply standing instead of sitting.

READ MORE: Why too much sitting time increases risk of disease even if you exercise

“While the study cannot show that less time spent sitting causes the improvements in these markers of health, the associations it reveals are consistent with what is known already about the benefits of a non-sedentary lifestyle. More work is needed to understand cause and effect,” Healy said.

Healy notes that sitting isn’t bad in any way, it’s just that today’s society has to actively work standing and moving around into their daily lifestyle.

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According to her findings, standing takes up a third of our waking hours. Upper body movement wasn’t tracked in the study (the device was worn on users’ thighs) so they could be washing dishes and reaping additional benefits, for example.

READ MORE: Doctor calls on Canadians to ditch the shortcuts, add time on their feet

For now, the researchers say that larger studies are needed to confirm their findings. Their plan is to follow up with the volunteers and expand on their findings with more participants from different age groups.

Experts have warned about the risks of “sitting disease” often. Earlier this year, Canadian scientists out of Toronto Rehabilitation Institute said that 30 minutes to an hour of being on your feet isn’t enough to stave off disease.

READ MORE: Why too much sitting time increases risk of disease even if you exercise

“What we found was that sitting time is linked to higher risk of death, higher risk of heart disease, higher risk of cancer, cancer-related deaths, heart disease-related deaths and diabetes,” the study’s lead author, Dr. David Atler, told Global News.

carmen.chai@globalnews.ca

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