Sitting is bad for your health

by Michelle Fiscus. 0 Comments

Why small bouts of movement all day long are the key to preventing disease

Your desk job is killing you. Even though you have sworn off cigarettes, soda, and sugar, you’re not in the clear. Think your daily 60-minute trip to the gym will safeguard you against disease? Turns out, that is not enough.

The theory comes from Dr. James Levine of the Mayo Clinic who did several studies on how detrimental sitting on your butt can be.

In fact, the doctor has spent over a dozen years designing experiments to find out why some people gain weight and others don’t—on the same amount of calories. Over time, Doctor Levine and other researchers discovered the people who don’t gain weight unconsciously move more. It’s not a matter of having a “fast metabolism” or superior genes; they simply just don’t sit around.

It makes sense that you might be able to control a slow incremental weight gain over time by watching your diet and working out at the gym. But, exercise does not offset the unhealthy effects from being chained to a desk all day long. Researchers even compared sitting to smoking cigarettes.

Not only do you burn less calories on your backside, but insulin stops working correctly. That only takes one day to happen. With that, the risk of getting type 2 diabetes increases. Bad triglycerides go up and good HDL cholesterol goes down. Can you imagine what’s happening to your body over a week…?

A month…?

A year…?

This information is not the findings of one man or one study, but multiple studies over a decade that constantly back up the fact the sitting is bad for your health. It doesn’t matter if you are obese or a marathon runner… working a desk job, sitting eight hours a day and then coming home to sit and watch television, or sit in front of your computer is putting you on an early track to disease.

The interesting thing is you don’t have to log hours at the gym to offset the danger of inactivity. Exercising helps, as does maintaining a good diet; but, the real help is something called NEAT.

The acronym was coined by Doctor Levine and it is widely used in the field of fitness and nutrition. It stands for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. It’s all the movements you can do all day long that don’t technically qualify as a workout.

You can get up to use the restroom, several times day. It’s also an excuse to stand and head to a co-workers cubicle for a 15 minute conversation. Increasing NEAT can be done by parking your car as far away as possible and walking to your office/the shopping center/the food store.

Besides trying to rack up NEAT at work, try it at home too. Make several trips up and down the stairs instead of trying to consolidate everything into one. Don’t park yourself on the couch as soon as you get home: unload the dishwasher, straighten up a room, be ambitious and organize a closet.

That might sound exhausting but the more you move, the better you’re going to feel. Remember all those bad physiological things that happen when you are sedentary? When you move more, all those problems start to reverse. You are going to find yourself more willing to move, having more energy, and feeling better. So while focusing on a healthy diet and regimented workout plan is admirable… don’t forget it’s the little things that add up.

If you have a story idea or to ask a question, email Michelle at


Michelle Fiscus and her husband own a personal training and nutrition business based in Frederick County and hold industry certifications and credentials.

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