Mounting evidence suggests that prolonged sitting -- a staple of modern-day life -- is hazardous to your health, even if you exercise regularly. Being sedentary is different than not getting enough physical activity. Even if you are doing enough physical activity, sitting for more than 7 to 10 hours at a time makes you sedentary.
A comprehensive study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that many people who made the time to exercise also spent much of the day sitting. These people—dubbed by researchers as active couch potatoes—were found to have elevated blood sugar, cholesterol, and body fat.
In this brand new study, researchers found that the optimal amount of movement was five minutes of walking every 30 minutes, significantly lowering blood sugar and blood pressure.
Walk after a meal: After eating a higher-carb meal, walking is beneficial to help dispose of any excess glucose and allow levels to return to pre-meal values more promptly. Even a brisk 5-minute walk around the neighborhood can help!
This study also found that breaking up sitting with just 5 minutes of light walking (compared to 5 min of standing) led to significant improvements in postprandial glucose and insulin levels.
This study found that light to moderate activity interspersed to break-up sitting resulted in the same level of improvements in plasma lipids, triglycerides, and insulin sensitivity compared to the same amount of energy expenditure in a signal chunk of time. So you can achieve similar health outcomes by spreading your movement throughout the day.
Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, or NEAT, is a term used to describe the number of calories you burn through daily physical activity outside a formal exercise regime. NEAT can account for up to 15 to 30 percent of your daily calorie expenditure. It can increase your metabolic rate, so making every movement count is essential.
Almost anything that helps you expend energy: fidgeting, tapping your foot, doing housework, walking around during your workday—even singing, is considered NEAT. While these activities may seem insignificant, they can contribute significantly to your daily calorie burn, fat loss, and resting metabolic rate. Research has shown that people who engage in more NEAT activities benefit in many ways. They have lower rates of obesity, better energy balance, and better insulin sensitivity.
Some activities you can engage in that are considered NEAT activities:
Instead of taking the elevator, try taking the stairs to get where you’re going.
If you enjoy being outdoors, take up gardening to have an active way to enjoy the outdoors.
Tasks like vacuuming and sweeping add up quickly. An added benefit is that your home will be extra clean.
If you have a desk job, find new ways to stay active throughout your workday. For example, take phone calls while walking around.
Take any chance to incorporate movement instead of sedentary behavior in your daily life.
Make a mental shift in thinking about exercise differently. Of course, consistent, intentional intense cardio or strength-training workouts is essential, but incidental movement throughout the day can be a lighter-hearted approach to think about ways to move your body! For example, consider meandering around the neighborhood, yoga in the living room, or a dance party while cooking dinner. Think of all these things as “joyful movement.”
Just get up and move!