Stop searching for the elixir of life. There’s an easier way to extend your longevity: Stand up. Sitting less than three hours each day may increase your life expectancy by two years, according to a new study in the journal BMJ Open.
Being sedentary is an independent risk factor, the researchers note. What that means: No matter how much gym time you log or how many vegetables you consume, being on your butt for long periods of time every day can shave years off your life. It’s almost as harmful to your health as smoking, says study author Peter T. Katzmarzyk, Ph.D., of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (Still sitting? Then read our in-depth special report about the dangers of sitting too much.)
How does being on your feet lengthen your life? In truth, the researchers aren’t exactly sure, but past research has shown that your large leg muscles are inactive when you’re seated, explains Katzmarzyk. But standing activates these muscles, which helps your body manage blood sugar and metabolize cholesterol, he says. Ultimately, this reduces your risk for heart disease.
If you’re chained to a desk or have a long commute, spending the day standing might be an impossible task. But it is possible to minimize the time you spend seated throughout the week. Follow these five easy ways to get on your feet.
1. Get Off the Couch
In the same study, Katzmarzyk and his team also found that limiting your time on the couch in front of the television to less than two hours may extend a person’s life by 1.4 years. Now, we’re not saying you have to miss Breaking Bad, but place your remote near the TV instead of keeping it next to you, suggests Marc Tinsley, D.C., founder of the health consulting firm Fitness For the Rest of Us. That way, you’ll have to get up to change channels during commercials or fast forward through them on DVR.
2. Keep Your Cell Out of Sight
When you get home from work, stash your cell phone on the opposite side of the room, suggests Manning Sumner, owner of LegacyFit in Miami, Florida, who trains well-known names like NFL offensive tackle Michael Oher and NBA star Kevin Durant. This will force you to get up in order to answer an incoming text or phone call. A small gesture? Hardly. The movement of rising from your couch uses at least 50 different muscles, says Sumner. Once you’re standing, many of those muscles–such as your abs, lower back, and hip extensors–stay engaged to keep you upright, he says.
3. Drink on Your Feet
For your next happy hour, choose a bar with games like darts, shuffleboard, or pool, says Tinsley. You’ll be on your feet instead of slouching at the bar. Because of that, you’ll burn about 25 to 30 percent more calories standing rather than sitting, says Chrissy Carroll, R.D., of Inspired Wellness Solutions in Massachusetts. Or, if a barbecue is on your agenda, don’t park yourself in a lawn chair and swill beer. Help man the grill or start a round of Bocce, she says.
4. Cheer from the Stands
Forget trying to score those elusive front-row seats along the third-base line at the ballgame. Instead, buy standing-room tickets to save your legs and your wallet, since these tickets are usually cheaper than stadium seats.
5. Get Sweaty
On the next date night, nix dinner and a movie. Get active together instead, suggests Carroll. Take her inline skating, to the beach, or miniature golfing. (Even better: Go for a roll in the hay. Here are 10 exciting ways to jumpstart your sex life.)