Stand up! Even if you exercise diligently for 30 minutes or an hour each day, sitting for the rest of it causes you to develop the same unhealthy physiological conditions as people who exercise little, if at all. But the good news: The latest science persuasively shows that standing every 20 minutes or so effectively stops the physiological processes related to inactivity. You don’t have to do anything when you’re standing—you can stroll to the window if you feel like it, or do jumping jacks if you’re the energetic type. But by itself, just standing up activates the big muscles in your legs and back, and in the process, starts a whole series of beneficial physiological reactions. Your muscles pull sugar from your bloodstream and newly released enzymes incinerate the fat there. You’ll reduce your risk for diabetes and heart disease. And you may even drop pounds!
—Gretchen Reynolds is the Phys Ed columnist of The New York Times. Her new book, The First 20 Minutes: Surprising Science Reveals How We Can Exercise Better, Train Smarter, and Live Longer is available now. Condensed from our previous interview with Reynolds.