Happy New Year! Statistics show that at least half of you are making or have made a resolution for the year, and that improving healthy behaviors account for 50% of those goals. Better health is a topic on many minds in January each year.
We can all agree on the virtues of exercise, and its vital contribution to physical health and mental wellbeing. The National Institute of Health states the current guidelines for physical activity include the accumulation of 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activity, or 75 minutes per week of vigorous intensity activity, or a combination of the two where vigorous activity counts double compared with moderate-intensity activity. While this recommendation shouldn’t come as a surprise, what might be surprising, or even alarming, is that even consistent, vigorous physical activity within these guidelines, does not erase the deleterious effects of extended hours of sitting at a desk, on the sofa, or in a vehicle.
It is difficult to deny the amount of sitting in our current lifestyles. In 2016, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that on average, people sat for 40% of their workday. This statistic is skewed more toward standing for waitresses, retail salespeople, and laborers (7% of their day sitting), and more toward sitting for lawyers, accountants, and software developers (up to 90% of their day sitting). Regardless, that equates to the average worker sitting for over 3 hours a day, and many people sitting for over 7 hours of their workday. Factor in time spent riding in a vehicle, or relaxing on a couch, and we have a sitting epidemic.
We burn an average of 50 calories more per hour by standing than sitting. If you stand for 3 hours per day, five days per week, it equates to 750 calories burned. Over a year, that’s 30,000 calories, which is almost 9 pounds. That takes into account only the caloric effects of sitting. After just 30 minutes of sitting, your metabolism slows down up to 90 percent. The enzymes that move the bad fat from your arteries to your muscles, where it is burned off, slow down. Sitting also shuts down the electrical activity in the legs. It makes the body less sensitive to insulin, causing calorie-burning to plummet. After two hours, your good cholesterol levels can drop up to 20 percent.
However, the cure for too much sitting isn’t simply more exercise. Exercise is good, of course, but the average person could never do enough to counteract the effects of hours and hours of chair time. Regardless of your total daily sitting time, and your time spent exercising, it is the increased number of breaks during your sedentary time that are associated with a decrease in waist circumference, a decrease in body mass index (BMI), a decrease in cholesterol levels, and improvements in blood sugar levels.
So just stand up! Getting up and walking around, or even just standing, for five minutes every half hour is going to get things going again. Metabolism, electrical activity in you legs, and calorie burning will all increase. Standing desks are very popular, and effective. But it can also be as easy as setting an alarm as a reminder. Regardless of how you get up off your backside, or what you do once you’re up, the important thing is to just stand up!
-Kara Neil, MSPT