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Acute Metabolic Response, Energy Expenditure, and EMG Activity in Sitting and Standing


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: September 2017 - Volume 49 - Issue 9 - p 1927–1934
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000001305
Applied Sciences

Purpose While merely standing up interrupts sedentary behavior, it is important to study acute metabolic responses during single bouts of sitting and standing to understand the physiological processes affecting the health of office workers.

Methods Eighteen healthy middle-age women 49.4 ± 7.9 yr old (range: 40–64) with a body mass index of 23.4 ± 2.8 kg·m−2 volunteered for this laboratory-based randomized crossover trial where they performed 2 h desk work in either sitting or standing postures after overnight fasting. Muscle activity (normalized to walking at 5 km·h−1), respiratory gas exchange, and blood samples were assessed after glucose loading (75 g).

Results Compared with seated work, continuous standing resulted in greater activity in the thigh muscles (mean of biceps femoris and vastus lateralis: 17% ± 8% vs 7% ± 2%, P < 0.001) and leg muscles (mean of tibialis anterior, gastrocnemius medialis, and soleus: 16% ± 6% vs 7% ± 3%, P < 0.001), but no increases in back muscle activity (thoracic erector spinae, lumbar erector spinae, and multifidus). Concomitant with 9% higher energy expenditure (EE) (P = 0.002), standing resulted in higher fat oxidation (48% ± 9% EE vs 39% ± 7% EE, P = 0.008) and lower carbohydrate oxidation (52% ± 9% EE vs 61% ± 7% EE, P = 0.008) than sitting. Glucose total and net incremental area under the curve were approximately 10% (P = 0.026) and 42% (P = 0.017) higher during standing than sitting, respectively. Insulin concentration did not differ between conditions.

Conclusion Compared with sitting, 2 h of standing increased muscle activity, fat oxidation, and circulating glucose level. These results suggest fuel switching in favor of fat oxidation during standing despite extra carbohydrate availability.

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Neuromuscular Research Center, Biology of Physical Activity, Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, FINLAND

Address for correspondence: Ying Gao, M.Sc., Neuromuscular Research Center, Biology of Physical Activity, Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences, University of Jyväskylä, PO Box 35, FI-40014 Jyväskylä, Finland; E-mail:

Submitted for publication December 2016.

Accepted for publication April 2017.

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© 2017 American College of Sports Medicine