Adapted from article by Krista Burns
The “Sitting Epidemic” has swept across the western world, and people are growing sicker and sicker for it everyday. Children, adolescents and adults sit for hour after hour on devices, computers and cellphones. Hours turn to days, days turn to weeks, weeks turn to months, and months turn to years. If you are to look back on the passing time realistically how much of that time was spend sitting?
It is actually scary how sedentary our lives become. New societal “norms” require sitting occupations more so than standing work tasks. And the crazy part, our school habits made us think it was normal to spend our lives sitting! We are raised thinking this is okay.
The sitting epidemic is out of control. We are too sedentary. Society is suffering from “Sitting Disease.”
Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT)
Dr. Levine, a lead researcher on Sitting Disease explains NEAT the following way:
“Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) is the energy expended for everything we do that is not sleeping, eating or sports-like exercise. It ranges from the energy expended walking to work, typing, performing yard work, undertaking agricultural tasks and fidgeting. Even trivial physical activities increase metabolic rate substantially and it is the cumulative impact of a multitude of exothermic actions that culminate in an individual’s daily NEAT” (Levine, 2002).
Our brains are wired for movement, and our bodies are designed for dynamism. To offset the ill health effects of “Sitting Disease” or the chronic diseases that are directly correlated with a sedentary lifestyle, it is recommended to increase bouts of movement (NEAT) throughout the day.
Levine continues, “NEAT could be a critical component in how we maintain our body weight and/or develop obesity or lose weight.” (2002).
What we do in our occupations has a great impact on the amount of NEAT caloric expenditure. For example, a farmer working in the fields has a much higher NEAT than a desk worker who sits all day.
The desk worker clocks in at 9 am and sits their way through to lunchtime. They are worried that if they get up to take a walk it will look like they are avoiding work. So they keep sitting and working from their desk day after day. In reality, the only time they leave their cubicle is to go to a meeting down the hall, use the copy machine, or fill up their coffee in the break room. This minimal amount of activity exerts a very low amount of NEAT, far from the athletic, mobile, and agile being we were designed to be.
What if I Workout in the Morning Before Work?
Working out, spending 30 minutes to an hour in the gym is a great lifestyle habit. However, if you have a seated occupation, it’s not enough. In fact Levine describes that working out for an hour per day is not enough to offset a sedentary lifestyle. You must increase NEAT caloric expenditure.
Don’t get confused, working out is great… definitely don’t stop going to the gym or doing your daily training. However, also be cognizant of how much you are moving the rest of the day. Increasing the amount of movement that you do throughout the day is your best solution to increase NEAT caloric expenditure.
How Can I Burn More Calories at Work while Staying Productive?
You can increase NEAT without decreasing productivity! If anything, you will be more focused and more productive in the workplace.
5 Ways to Increase NEAT and Burn More Calories at Work
1) Get a Sit-Stand Capable Desk
Having a desk that allows you to go from sitting to standing is a great way to increase NEAT. Although you don’t have to stand all day, you can sit and stand. An ideal ratio is standing for three times longer than you sit. With adjustable workstations you can take breaks as needed, but plan to spend the majority of your time standing.
2) Walk While You Work
Take walks while you work to increase NEAT. Remember, your brain and your body was designed to move, not to be stagnant. Walk throughout your workday. A great strategy is to get a treadmill desk allowing you to walk while working at your computer. Plus, list out 3 activities you can do while walking instead of sitting. For example, walk and talk on the phone, do walking meetings, and walk up the stairs instead of taking the elevator.
3) Change Your Posture Often
Again, we were designed to move. The structural framework of your body, your posture was not designed to hold you upright in a static position without movement. We are dynamic beings so we need to take the time to perform a Posture Break every hour. To prevent forward head posture and shoulder slouching that occurs due to gravity, perform a Posture Break where you draw your shoulders, arms, and head back while pushing your chest forward. Change your posture often to increase NEAT and prevent poor posture.
4) While Seated Sit on an Exercise Ball or Posture Cushion
This creates a more dynamic seat, meaning you engage more muscles whilst sitting. This helps promote good posture, you tend to move more than while sitting on a normal office chair, and it helps improve balance by stimulating the vestibular system for better equilibrium and balance-ability.
5) Perform Balance Training While Waiting in Line
Maximise your time at work by being more active. While standing in line, instead of grabbing your cell phone and looking down in poor posture, you can be active by performing balance training. Stand on one leg with proper posture to improve balance; this is a fundamental aspect of human performance. Stand on one leg in good posture and balance for 30-second intervals, then switch legs.
These 5 NEAT ways to increase your caloric expenditure at work can transform your life. By being active at work you can prevent obesity, metabolic disease, and posture faults leading to musculoskeletal injuries. Your occupation is a great part of your life. Maximise your work capacity while staying healthy in the workplace.
This commitment to your health will have a high pay off return on investment of your health, happiness, and wellbeing.
When these tips are combined with Chiropractic Adjustments, it can significantly increase your chances of maintaining good spinal health and posture, as well as minimise the effect of prolonged sitting.
Garrett, G. et al. (2106) Call Center Productivity Over 6 Months Following a Standing Desk Intervention. IIE Transactions on Occupational Ergonomics and Human Factors, 4(2-3) p. 188-195.
Levine, J. (2002) Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT). Best Pract Res Clin Endocrinol Metab., 16(4) p. 679-702.
Levine, J. A., & Miller, J. M. (2007). The energy expenditure of using a “walk-and-work” desk for office workers with obesity. British journal of sports medicine, 41(9), 558-561.