Why standing on the subway makes you look younger

crowded rush hour
CC BY 2.0 Stefan Georgi/Flickr

It's rush hour. Bodies packed together, bent in awkward angles just to fit in the subway. Those standing glare at the ones who found a seat, willing them to get off at the next stop.

This is the reality of rush hour in big cities. There's no way to avoid it: if you're working a nine to five, you'll get stuck in the swarms of people.

But now, standing doesn't have to be as frustrating. New research from a team at Karolinska University suggests that people who stand a lot have longer telomeres - caps on the end of chromosomes which protect DNA from wear and tear. People who spend long periods of time sitting, on the other hand, tend to have shorter telomeres. Short telomeres are linked with ageing and disease.

"We hypothesise that a reduction in sitting hours is of greater importance than an increase in exercise time for elderly risk individuals," Professor Mai-Lis Hellenius, from Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm, told the Telegraph.

The team studied two groups of overweight adults in their sixties and found that those they put on an exercise program for six months tended to be healthier than those who remained sedentary. Not surprising, you might say, but here's where it gets interesting: The increased health was more strongly related to the amount of time spent standing than the exercising.

In other words, standing had more of an impact on health than a regular exercise routine.

"In many countries formal exercise may be increasing, but at the same time people spend more time sitting," added Hellenius. "There is growing concern that not only low physical activity but probably also sitting and sedentary behaviour is an important and new health hazard of our time." If you haven't already, this might be a good time to consider a standing desk.

Next time someone beats you to a seat on the subway, just think about how you're ageing more slowly by staying upright.

Why standing on the subway makes you look younger
Studies show that standing has anti-ageing effects.