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Sneaky Saboteur: Sitting


It’s not news that exercise is an important factor when it comes to health, weight and longevity.  We may not do it consistently, but we certainly know that exercise is important!

What not a lot of people know is the importance of activity outside of exercise.  Or perhaps a better way of saying that, is the very real weight and health impacts of inactivity – i.e. sitting all day long.

Now before I lose you, I want you to know that I also sit at a desk all day long.  Nutritionists don’t typically consult while doing the electric slide (although please let me know if you’d be into that). For better or worse, our work lives have become inherently sedentary.  The goal isn’t to make you feel like there is no hope unless you quit your job and move to a remote island. Instead I want to share with you WHY sitting is so impactful and simple ways you can increase your daily activity.

The electric slide is the first way, so be sure to write that down.

Sitting Can Increase Fat Storage

Sitting can decrease the activity of an enzyme called Lipoprotein Lipase (LPL). LPL’s job is to help burn fat.  Now one of the interesting things about this is that the simple act of standing up can have a positive impact on LPL activity along with other biomarkers and therefore a positive impact on how your body burns fat. So, the opposite of sitting doesn’t necessarily have to be CrossFit, it can simply be standing up periodically.

Sitting May Increase Appetite

There was a study where a small weight was added to a group of mice.  Their appetite decreased, they ate less, and they naturally lost the same about of body fat as the weight that was added.  Their bodies desire to maintain a state of homeostasis brought them back to their starting weight. 

Then they performed the same experiment on a set of mice that lacked certain cells called osteocytes.  Osteocytes have to do with bone strength and formation.  This set of mice did not decrease their food intake and their weight increased.

The implication is that osteocytes may be able to detect the increase in stress on the bones and set off signals to naturally regulate appetite and weight.  However, with constant support from chairs, cars, beds, etc. your body may be unaware that weight has been gained and any appetite regulation will have to be external rather than internal. 

What do you do with this information?

Even if you are an exercising adult, there is a very good chance that you are spending the majority of your life in a seated position.  When we think of the benefits of activity, often we think of calories or increase in heart rate. Although those are great things, the down side of sitting all the time can be even a little more subtle.  The good news is the solutions can be subtle as well.

  1. Stand up. I recommend standing up for 5 minutes at least every 2 hours (although every hour is even better). You can set an alarm or use the function on your Phone or Smart Watch. And yes, I also found that stand reminder on my watch annoying…until I understood it!
  2. Sneak it in. Does your day look anything like this:

If so, the authors of this study (and the owners of the image above) lovingly refer to you as an active couch potato.  Yup, that hit me in my ego as well!  Look at that long stretch of inactivity above and see where you can sneak in more movement.  Try making things a little less convenient so you need to walk a little further or at least be vertical for a longer period of time!

  1. Get stepping. Although the idea of 10K steps is fairly arbitrary, steps are a great way to assess where you are and see where you can add more activity.  If 10K steps seems too unrealistic, shoot for 6K as a starting point.

And if all else fails, find yourself a wedding or any prom during the 90’s and boogie woogie woogie.

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