Can reducing sitting time in the university setting improve the cardiometabolic health of college students?
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Purpose: The high prevalence of metabolic syndrome (MetS), prediabetes, and increased risk of cardiovascular diseases linked with prolonged sitting has created a need to identify options to limit sedentary behaviors. A potentially simple approach to achieve this goal in the university setting is to provide students the option to stand during courses rather than sit. The purpose of the present study was to examine the effects of standing in the college classroom setting on cardiometabolic risk factors in a cohort of college students. Patients and methods: Healthy college students (n=21) who attended at least two courses per week (a minimum of 5 hours) in a specified university building with standing desks participated in a 7-week intervention that was divided into three phases: 3 weeks of standing, 1 week of washout (sitting), and 3 weeks of sitting. The participants (mean ± SD: age, height, weight, body mass index, and waist-to-hip ratio were 22.7±6.4 years, 174.3±10.0 cm, 70.6±14.3 kg, 23.0±3.0 kg/m2, and 0.76±0.05, respectively) were randomly assigned to the phase of intervention of which they should start (sitting or standing), and all participants engaged in sitting during the washout phase. Cardiometabolic risk factors and metabolic equivalents (METs) were measured at baseline and weekly throughout the intervention. Results: Paired t-tests revealed significant differences (P<0.05) in all cardiometabolic risk factors between the 3 weeks of sitting and 3 weeks of standing time blocks. Moreover, MetS z-score was significantly improved (P<0.05) during the 3 weeks of standing (–5.91±2.70) vs 3 weeks of sitting (–5.25±2.69). The METs were significantly higher (P<0.05) during standing (1.47±0.09) than during sitting (1.02±0.07). Although there was considerable interindividual variability in the ∆ MetS z-score response, there was a 100% (21/21) incidence of a favorable change (ie, responders) in MetS z-score response. Conclusion: A standing desk in the classroom paradigm was found to significantly improve cardiometabolic health throughout a short 3 weeks time span. Increasing standing time in the classroom, and therefore lessening weekly sedentary behavior, could be a potential wide-scale, effective strategy for primordial prevention of cardiometabolic diseases.
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