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In the age of technology, desk jobs are more and more common. Jobs that used to require an employee to be out in the field can now be done from the comfort of a desk chair. The bad news is, this comfort is killing us…kinda. Americans sit for an average of 13 hours per day. (1) Biologically, the human body is not meant to be this idle. On the surface, America’s high rate of obesity seems to be related mostly to diet, but what many overlook is the lack of physical activity. Here I will present you with some methods to stay active, EVEN IF you work a desk job.
Effects of Long Term Sitting
Many people who work desk jobs may say, “Well I exercise on a regular basis before/after work so I am not at risk.” While they are a big step ahead of a large percentage of the population, their 1-1.5 hr exercise session may not be enough to maintain a healthy metabolism, depending on their genetic make up. A 2014 article in Scientific American states:
“Lack of movement slows metabolism, reducing the amount of food that is converted to energy and thus promoting fat accumulation, obesity, and the litany of ills—heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and more—that come with being overweight.”
Contrary to what you may think, sitting is also bad for people who are lean, especially after a meal. Sitting after a meal can lead to blood sugar spikes, that if you were active, may be reduced. Lastly, sitting greatly reduces your NEAT (Non-exercise activity thermogenesis) or in other words, the amount of calories burned doing activities other than exercising. This means you get to eat less food before surpassing your caloric needs = potential weight gain.
The Good News
As previously mentioned, those who are already exercising on a regular basis are a step ahead of most people. In many cases, this may be enough exercise to maintain a healthy metabolism. Some encouragement for those who do not exercise on a regular basis, a 2011 study concluded that just 15 minutes of physical activity per day reduced markers of mortality (high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, etc.).(2) Additionally, where you live has a big influence on your daily physical activity. For example if you live in a city, you are likely to get more physical activity just out of necessity, getting from point A to B. On the other hand, if you live in a sub-urban or rural area where you must drive most places you are less likely to get much physical activity outside of purposeful exercise.
Quick Tips: Move To Improve
The following are a few ways that you can stay active if you work a desk job:
- Use the stairs: Although this one is a bit cliché it really does hold true. If feasible at your workplace, use the stairs when possible. Each flight of stairs burns 5 – 10 calories. While calories are not the principal focus, calories burned serve as a good marker of exertion. Using the stairs also stretches your leg muscles, which is important when sitting for extended periods.
- Move Around Every 30 minutes: For every 30 minutes sitting, stand up and walk around for at least a minute.
- Park Further From the Entrance
- Walk over to a co-worker instead of sending them an email or calling
- Take a quick walk after lunch: Even walking for 5 minutes is enough to get your blood flowing and stimulate your metabolism.
- Get a standing desk: Standing desks have risen greatly in popularity. If your office would permit this, think of getting one, they might even pay for it.
- Don’t skip breakfast: While this may seem counterintuitive, skipping breakfast actually slows your metabolism. Make sure to eat a well-balanced breakfast to kickstart your metabolism in the morning.
- Stay Hydrated: Studies show that staying hydrated promotes a healthier body composition.(3)
- Be Conscious When Snacking: While some snacking can be beneficial, if you are snacking without paying attention, the calories can add up quick.
While this is not an all-inclusive list, this provides a great starting point for people who work a desk job that want to make sure they stay active. The bottom line is to not remain sitting for any extended period of time.