You might have heard that sitting is the new smoking, but unfortunately, most of our waking hours are spent sitting down.
Studies have long connected sedentary behaviour to poor health but doctors thought those problems could be related to the fact that people who sat more were probably just not working out very much.
To find out, Danish and Australian researchers went to 19 offices in Denmark, a country where all office workers have sit-stand desks.
They randomly assigned 317 people to either get more encouragement to incorporate more standing during their day or to receive no additional education about the benefits of sitting less.
After just one month, the researchers reported people who used the sit-stand desks sat about 71 minutes less in an eight hour working day than those who didn’t use them, and walked about 7% more.
Even more encouraging was the finding that the group that sat less also had about a half-percent less body fat after three months, compared with the group that sat more. The findings were published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.
While it’s not likely that getting up from your chair will become a major source of weight loss, simply by being out of your chair, you’re more likely to move a bit more, whether it’s walking or fidgeting, and that can contribute to burning more calories.
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Dr. James Levine, director of the Mayo Clinic-Arizona State University Obesity Solutions Initiative and who is also known to be inventor of the treadmill desk explained further in an interview with Time why the more you sit the fatter you get.
“The human body consumes energy when we move, that energy, let’s call it activity energy, is further divided into the sweat-inducing kind that you use when working out and another kind, which scientists have cleverly called NEAT: non-exercise activity thermogenesis.”
Even when we’re not exercising, we’re moving and using energy. That’s why NEAT matters. A body that’s sitting isn’t expending energy, so the signals that normally result in you moving and which in turn burn calories, start to check out.”
“By simply changing your work style, from a chair-based work style to a standing one, you can burn 500 to 1,000 extra calories a day.”
Dr Levine had some practical advice for office workers to stay active: “Fielding phone calls on your feet is a good way to start, or pacing while you talk.
“You could also keep a small glass of water on your desk so you’re inclined to get up more frequently to refill it, taking walks around the office or your home while you’re at it. For the more ambitious, urge your colleagues to try standing meetings,” he said.