New York Times Magazine recently published inactivity study findings from Mayo Clinic researcher James Levine. Levine studies human movement and tracks how much people move in their daily lives. He measures time spent sitting, standing, reclining and walking. Study participants wore sensor-filled bike shorts connected to a fanny pack with a small machine that tracked every motion, 24 hours a day over a two month period. It is important to note that subjects were not allowed to exercise during the study period. Aerobic activity, weight lifting, running, biking and swimming were prohibited.
The researchers fed people the same amount of food in the group to maintain their current weight and then, measured weight gain over time. Some people gained weight while others in the group put on little to no extra fat.
What did researchers observe in the group that put on little to no extra fat? They moved around more. Whether they took a flight of stairs or walked to the café across the street from their office or did gardening in the backyard, the group that gained little to no extra weight were sitting less often throughout the day. Simply put, their bodies were more frequently in motion which activated muscle memory.
Sitting, researchers are discovering, is harmful to one’s health. The non-activity state known as sitting negatively impacts our metabolism, calorie burning rate, insulin effectiveness and ability to lose weight. A medical journal called Circulation published a study last year which examined 9,000 Australians and “concluded that the risk of dying increased by 11 percent for each additional hour of television a person sat and watched per day.”
While television watching is partly responsible for the nation’s sitting epidemic, US workplaces are also to blame for American’s bad sitting habits. Unless you work in landscaping, agriculture, construction, fishing or manufacturing, chances are you are sitting in front of a computer for eight hours a day. Employers need to take a more active role in creating health and wellness policies that not only encourage but reward employees to move more during the workday. In-office gyms, stretching exercises, short walking sprints around the hallway or office parking lot can go a long way to improve physical health and well-being.
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