When most people think exercise they typically think activities like running or weight training. And your exercise is done for a relatively short period of time, then you head off to tackle the rest of your day.
What researchers are learning is that working out by itself won’t compensate for the problems associated with sedentary behaviour.
We need to think about activity, not just exercise.
Standing vs. Sitting
We are learning is that a standing body uses energy quite differently than a sitting body. Even to the point to how your brain responds.
Most people know that depending on our level of activity we burn calories at different rates, and we also store calories differently. “Non-exercise activity” is activity that you are doing when you are not exercising at high intensity — things like standing, walking, gardening, cooking, running to catch the elevator, and even fidgeting.
Dr. James Levine calls it Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, or NEAT. According to Dr. Levine someone who is required to sit at a desk for 8 hours a day burns approximately 300 NEAT calories, in comparison someone who is standing and moving can burn upwards of 1300 NEAT calories in that same time period. (*Deskbound, 2016)
Over time that calorie gap can be the difference between being obese or not.
A sitting body does not burn many calories and on top of that, when you sit your brain literally turns off the signals to burn energy. Obesity and being stuck behind a desk go hand in hand.
1 hour workout is cancelled out by 6 hours of sitting
Dr. Levine goes on to report that a full hour of medium to high intensity exercise is erased with as little as 6 hours of sitting throughout the day.
And those 6 hours are not all at once — that’s TOTAL during your work day.
How do we combat all this sitting at work?
My #1 recommendation is that your “workspace” have the ability to stand while working.
I know for most companies spending $1800 on a standing station is not possible. Simply taking your laptop to a place in the office where you can bring it up to sternum hight and answer some emails or craft a letter can do the trick.
When I’m working from home I’ll often do this at our bar in the kitchen just to get myself upright and out of a chair for 20 or 30 minutes. Get creative, it’s worth it!
Then, after a few emails are responded to you can go back to your desk for 30 or 40 minutes.
At work I’m fortunate enough to have 2 work stations, one that is standing by where I input data into my patient files when I’m adjusting, and a second “sitting” station in my personal office.
My time is split about 50/50 between the two.
Sitting really has become the new smoking
Dr. Levine is also the researcher who has coined the term “sitting is the new smoking” and when you study his research findings it’s clear to see that he’s not too far off with his conclusions.
*For more on the hazards of sitting behind a desk I encourage you to take a look at the book Deskbound by Dr. Kelly Starrett as this research and much more is included in this comprehensive text book on what the seated posture is doing to our human physiology.
Want some help?
If you our your company want some expert advice on these kinds of topics as well as re-invigorate your wellness at work strategy then I’d love to help.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call our office at 250-870-9136 to set up a time to discuss how we can come up with a plan to protect your employee’s health and help them succeed at work.