The Consequences of America's "Sitting Epidemic"
Here's a health tip that sounds too easy to be true: Stand up. If you're like the average American, you spend nearly eight hours a day—more than 50 hours per week—planted on your behind, according to Vanderbilt University researchers. There's a cost to all that downtime (and it's not just a spreading lower half).
When you're sitting, your body undergoes a metabolic slowdown. You use less blood sugar for energy, and you burn fewer calories. Sitting also decreases the activity of an enzyme called lipoprotein lipase, which works to eliminate fats in the blood. The worst part: Even regular exercise won't protect you. Research has shown that if you spend long periods sitting, you'll have a larger waist, greater body mass index, and higher levels of blood sugar and blood fats than someone who takes frequent breaks to stand or stretch—regardless of how often you lace up your running shoes.
Ultimately, spending more time on your feet means a longer life. However, even desk-bound workers aren't doomed. These simple changes can create a more active routine.
Try TV Training
For every hour you add to your average daily tube time, you increase your risk of metabolic syndrome (a group of conditions that can predispose you to heart disease, stroke, and diabetes) by more than 25 percent. I've made the area around my television a workout space. Try walking on the treadmill while you watch your favorite programs, or swapping your La-Z-Boy for an energy ball, which forces you to engage your muscles while you sit.
Use Technology to Your Advantage
Thanks to instant messaging, cell phones, and wireless Internet access, we can shop, catch up with friends, and chat with colleagues—all without taking a single step. However, technology also allows us to communicate and get work done while simultaneously staying active. Why not take your next conference call while strolling through the park? You'll stay fit and maintain productivity.
Nonexercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) is the energy you expend for activities other than direct exercise, and it can have an even greater impact on your health than the amount of time you spend on the treadmill. There are countless simple ways to increase your NEAT. Wash the dishes instead of using the dishwasher, walk to a neighbor's house instead of driving, cook dinner instead of ordering in, or take the stairs instead of the elevator at work.