To help supplement my 60-day blogging challenge, I have decided to start a series called “What I Learned.” Every Saturday I will post something interesting I learned during the week. It might be a bunch of little things I learned in class or, like today, a long post about a single topic.
At my college, we are required to take two gym courses to graduate. I am in weight training right now and one of the requirements is to go to 3 events hosted by the student wellness center. Now, I have issues with the wellness center. I strongly dislike their hiring practices and I have been to many an event where the presenter had no idea what there were talking about.
If you are getting paid to be a 21-year-old female sexual health educator, you should know where the clitoris is. I’m just saying.
But the event I went to this week was actually really good! It was well-researched and chock-full of good information. It was titled “The Unexpected Killer.” (dun dun duuuuuuuuuuun)
The short version of the talk is that sitting all day is hazardous to your health. Of course, it’s not just enough to say that. Humans are lazy and skeptical about anything that requires work (no offense to you all), so I will also share the findings I learned and some easy alternatives to sitting all day.
Think about how frequently you sit during the day. No, really think about it. When you’re sleeping, eating, drive, working at your desk, watching TV, reading a book. How much time does that add up to? Would it be easier to calculate how much time you are standing or active? I’ll help you out: one study showed that the average American is only up and about 3 hours a day. The 7.7 figure reported below does not include sleeping. When a person sits down, their blood flow decreases, electrical activity in the muscles decreases, there are less enzymes that break down fat, insulin responsiveness drops, as well as a host of other not-so-healthy things.
The average lifespan is shrinking due to inactivity and all of the health problems that come with it, and diet and exercise alone are not helping. The body did not evolve to deal with deprivation, which is why strict diets frequently do not work. Furthermore, a healthy diet and exercise routine needs to be maintainable for results to stick, something that many dieters do not achieve (hey, I’m one of them!).
What needs to be done instead is NEAT: non-exercise activity thermogenesis. That’s a complicated phrase that means being active throughout the day outside of your prescribed 30 minutes of aerobic activity. This can be difficult. Technology has changed the way we live our lives in a way that discourages activity. We have to drive everywhere, a lot of work and study happens on the computer (I’m sitting down right now), etc. It is much easier to carve out 30-60 minutes a day, work out hard, and then go back to sitting feeling good about yourself.
That’s just not enough.
The good news, though, is that NEAT is very simple to implement and much more sustainable that a strict diet and exercise plan. All you need to do is move! And check out some of the benefits you can see by just standing or moving and hour more a day:
Need some ideas for how to get moving more? Start small. Incorporate little things into your life until they become habits, then keep adding. You have likely heard of the common suggestions to take the stairs, park farther away, and walk around while on the phone. Here are a few more:
- Set a timer: Set a timer for a half an hour (or however long you want). When the timer goes off, you have to get up and do something. It can be an exercise (50 jumping jacks, 20 pushups, 30 squats, a yoga sequence), a chore, or just getting up and walking around the house. I use this online timer.
- Stand up: Buy or make yourself a standing desk. Ideally, you would either have two desks or have some sort of attachment so that you can switch between sitting and standing.
- Get moving: Buy a treadmill desk, so you can walk while you work. It is also possible to make (or probably buy) a desk attachment that can go over a treadmill if you already have one. Just a low speed, one or two miles per hour is plenty. Alternatively, you could buy one of these really cool elliptical trainers. Cheaper and much smaller, they are a good option for students. Use it gently at a standing desk. Finally, if you are watching TV, exercise or clean while it is on.
Do you think you sit too much? What do you do to be more active in your every day life?