You’ve probably seen the headlines:
Sitting is the New Smoking
Your Chair Is Killing You
The Most Dangerous Thing You Do All Day…
Yes, our sedentary lifestyle may be Public Health Enemy #1. At the ACSM Health & Fitness Summit I had the pleasure of listening to an engaging presentation on this subject from Dr. James Levine. The noted scholar and author reviewed the data around something called NEAT and obesity.
NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) appears to be the overlooked piece in the great obesity debate. In fitness the focus is often on the workout. Government guidelines tell us to get our 30 minutes a day. According to Dr. Levine, what we really should focus on is the other 23 1/2 hours in the day. He told us that two people of the same weight can differ in daily caloric intake by as much as 2000 calorie per day. How is this possible? First, it helps to explain what makes up our metabolism.
If RMR (Resting Metabolic Rate) is mostly determined by body size and TEF (Thermic Effect of Food) is fairly stable, the difference is in our activity level. According to Dr. Levine the average exercise is burning around 100 calories per workout. That is certainly not enough to explain the 2000 calorie per day difference. NEAT, defined as all activity outside of sport or exercise, can be dramatically different for the cub dweller and the cashier.
What does this mean to someone on a fitness journey? It means that a hard and fast run on Sunday morning does not give you permission to sit on the couch the rest of the day. It means that your after work sweat session in the gym doesn’t allow you to stay glued to your office chair all day.
For health and fitness, we all have to get up more. And it can be just as simple as that. In my previous life I lived by my calendar of never ending conference calls and project deadlines. I get that getting up for a walk every hour just isn’t possible. We can stand. It can be that simple. Standing up burns more calories than sitting and it gets your body of the unnatural position sitting hunched over your computer.
According to JustStand.org here are the benefits to the body of standing vs sitting.
Standing is a great first step, but we need to do more. Here’s a list of every day tasks and situation to start to think about differently. Some of these you’ve heard before but perhaps there are on or two you’ve never though of.
Add Steps to Your Daily Commute
This can be accomplished in any number of ways. Walk or ride your bike to work instead of driving if it’s safe and a reasonable difference. If you take public transit, get off a stop or two early so you can get a few extra steps in. If you must drive to work, then park far away or take a couple of laps in the parking lot before you go inside.
Stop Emailing and Texting Colleagues
Face time fosters more collaboration in addition to getting your body moving. If you compile a list of questions to cover in a 10 or 15 minute chat you’ll accomplish more in a shorter amount of time and eliminate the distracting back and forth of electronic communication.
Having Walking or Standing Meetings
Let’s be honest. Most meetings draw out way too long. Dr. Levine shared that a walking minute is on average 11 minutes shorter than your standard meeting. Think about what you could do with all that time back!
Go Outside for Lunch
This applies to the office worker, the work at home blogger or stay at home mom. If you get outside you will move more. Walk to the park to enjoy your food or a neighborhood café to get away for a few minutes. The kids can play or you can reconnect with a friend in real time (vs. Facebook).
Get Off the Sidelines
I have so many clients with kids in after-school sports. I challenge them to use that time not to just socialize or check email but to get active also. Do the warm up with the soccer team or walk the bleachers during the huddles (so you can safely watch the rest of the game).
Be an Urban Explorer
Getting back to nature is great but for some of us the effort to get to a good trail or safe place to bike is just too much time out of the day. Instead explore what things your city might have to offer on foot. Museums, cultural festivals and home & garden tours provide a great way to have an adventure in your own back yard. Can you run errands on foot or bike instead of by car? Seek out new locations closer to home for things like dry cleaning or groceries. It’s better for you and the environment to use walk or ride instead of drive.
I hate cleaning my office. It is in a constant state of disarray. I try to corral it with 10-15 minute organizing breaks. This gets me up and moving for a few minutes while keeping my office from getting too out of control. This method also works with the junk drawers, your closet or the pantry.
Another fun get moving fact I learned was who came up with the 10,000 steps a day goal – the pedometer manufactures. Dr. Levine’s research says 7,000 steps a day is both adequate and doable – if you get out of your chair through out the day and if you get regular focused exercise.