Breaking down sitting, activity, and exercise

Recent headlines coupled with several recent studies have shown us that we need to incorporate more activity into our daily lives. For many of us, a desk job along with things like commuting and evening TV time can mean that we spend most of our day with a relatively low activity level, and much of it seated. Even if you spend an hour at the gym, the latest research tells us that we cannot exercise away a day of sitting. It’s kind of like how you can’t overcome poor nutrition with lots of workouts.

“We’ve become so sedentary that 30 minutes a day at the gym may not counteract the detrimental effects of 8, 9 or 10 hours of sitting.” – Genevieve Healy, PhD

The difference between simply having an active day and doing more intense physical activity or exercise can be subtle. Generally speaking, it can be simpler to integrate more physical activity throughout your day than to say, spend an hour at the gym. When I’m talking about overall activity in a day or spending more time moving, this type of activity is called non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT). It includes all activity that excludes sleeping and sports-like exercise. NEAT may not sound like a lot but in very active individuals, it can account for up to 50% of the energy expenditure (aka calorie burn) (Source). Now I have your attention, don’t I?

It can be easy to lose sight of simple acts of physical activity when you get bogged down at the office or doing work at home. Once you have established a habit of lots of sitting, it can be tough to break, like all habits. Below I’ve shared a variety of different options to get moving in your day-to-day life.

Get Moving

You may be wondering about the right level of physical activity for you. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends the following for adults:

  • 2 hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity activity and strength-training activities on 2 or more days per week ; OR
  • 1 hour and 15 minutes (75 minutes) of vigorous-intensity activity and strength-training activities on 2 or more days per week; OR
  • An equivalent mix of moderate-intensity and vigorous-intensity activity and strength-training activities on 2 or more days per week.

So while you are considering ways to get active throughout the day, make sure you that you don’t skimp on your workouts. A combination of NEAT and exercise can help improve your health, reduce the risks from prolonged sitting, and help you lose weight, if you desire. If you are focused on weight loss, activity will likely not be the only tool to get you there. You’ll need improved nutrition, enhanced levels of physical activity. Weight loss is simple – calories consumed must be less than calories expended. Now what are you waiting for, get moving!

If you would like more information on the topics presented in this month’s blog post, below are some great resources from credible, science-based organizations:

Be well,

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