That’s the conclusion of many researchers who linked our sedentary lifestyle and, in particular, long periods of sitting, with such health problems as diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and heart disease.
Just how much are we sitting? Different studies have revealed that the average American now spends between 7.7 and 11 hours sitting on a daily basis. Where do you fit on the sitting spectrum? Estimate your personal on-your-rear time using the sitting calculator at juststand.org.
In one study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, researchers compared the sedentary behavior of 17,000 Canadians with mortality statistics for 12 years and found that people who spent most of their time sitting had a 54 percent higher risk of mortality from all causes (except cancer) than people who hardly sat during the day.
“Sitting for more than three hours a day can shave a person’s life expectancy by two years,” says Peter T. Katzmarzyk, Ph.D., associate executive director for preventive medicine and healthy aging at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana, and one of the principal investigators in the above-mentioned study. And who doesn’t sit for more than three hours a day?
One of the more surprising findings from that study showed that regular exercise might not be enough to reduce the dangers of sitting for long periods every day. Thirty minutes of running on a treadmill is a drop in the bucket in comparison to 11 hours in a chair.
So what can you do if you’re already exercising regularly but have a job that keeps you chairbound? The answer is in getting more “NEAT” everyday, or Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. NEAT is the energy you expend for everything you do that’s not sleeping, eating or doing formal exercise or sports.
Turbocharging your NEAT will help you burn extra calories throughout the day, protecting against obesity and other diseases. Here’s how to start.
1. Set an alarm. Program your smartphone to remind you to get out of your chair every half-hour or hour.
2. Walk the talk. Whenever you place a call or answer your phone, automatically stand up and take a walk. Even if you have a desk phone, you can at least stand up.
3. Meet outside. Have a meeting scheduled for one or two people? If it’s a nice day, conduct your discussion during a walk outside. It’ll bring energizing oxygen to the brain.
4. Move the printer. If you have a wireless printer next to your computer, move it to another room to force yourself to stand and walk to retrieve your print jobs. Store your stapler, tape or files out of arm’s reach so you have to stand to access them.
5. Park in Siberia. Every time you go to work, park in the farthest spot from the front door to force yourself to take extra steps for the round trip.
6. Drink more water. Resolve to drink more water every day this year. Not only is drinking more than eight glasses a day great for general health, getting up to go to the water fountain and again during frequent trips to the bathroom will help you expend more NEAT calories.
7. Make commercials count. Use your TV time to do a little bit of exercise or stretching. Use timeouts during football games or commercials during a sitcom to knock out 15 pushups or 20 jumping jacks, or simply to stand and march in place. Better yet, turn off the tube and challenge your family to a physically active game.
8. Buy a stand-up desk. Many companies are fitting desktops with devices that hold computer screens and keyboards so employees can do traditional desk work while standing. Some units like Ergotron’s WorkFit Sit-Stand Workstation are height-adjustable on a sliding track, which allows for quickly lifting your computer and keyboard from a seated to standing configuration. Even more effective at bringing movement to sedentary occupations are treadmill computer workstations that allow employees to walk while they type.
By combining a handful of these strategies, you can reasonably turn a typical day of sitting into an active event that burns more fat calories over the course of your waking hours than a 30-minute kickboxing class at the gym.
Pretty NEAT, huh?
JEFF CSATARI is the author of the New York Times best-seller The Belly Off! Diet.
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