Sedentary behaviours refer to sitting during commuting, in the workplace, the domestic environment, and during leisure time. Sedentary behaviours also include TV viewing, computer use especially when having a desk job, or driving. Oh, and GAMING.  Doesn’t sound so bad, does it? Wait for it…

Sedentary behaviour can cause mortal diseases.

Dramatic enough?

C’mon though, we all knew all that sitting couldn’t be good. How many times did your grandmother or mother (insert relevant loving relative name here) told you to stop watching so much TV and get off your duff?  They knew! And now science knows too (it always seems to take them a while to get the proof for what my Granny seemed to already know…)

Here’s the Science

A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology by the American Cancer Society follows 123 to 216 subjects from a 2010 study. Findings indicated that a sedentary lifestyle may cause 90% greater risk of death. Females that sat for over 6 hours a day will 90% more likely to die;  40% of men who sit over the same period of time are more likely to die in comparison to their active co-workers.

Man sitting on a step

The study provided a warning that even if workers had a regular exercise, it will not change the harm that too much sitting can bring. However, it suggested that the only way to reverse the danger of too much sitting is to stand and move more, especially to workers who have desk jobs. Movement in the workplace could mean having walking breaks, stand and stretch at least every 6o minutes, and introducing standing meeting during conferences and core group discussions.

The NEAT Solution That Brings Life

James A. Levine, MD, Ph.D., of Mayo Clinic, introduced Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) as one of the solutions to the effects of too much sitting. NEAT is the term used to describe the activities that aids in energy expenditure (burn calories) even without formal exercise. And it has a pretty cool name (I think we should give James some extra credit for that – I’m sure there were a few names that got left on the lab floor because they weren’t quite so catchy)

How is NEAT done? For starters, remember that standing up has greater energy expenditure compared to sitting. For example, a 60 minutes leisure stroll burns more calories than an intense 30-minute power walk. Sitting will only burn 5 calories while standing will burn 15 calories.

People crossing the street at an intersection

The NEAT solutions at work are actually common and some workers are doing it without knowing that these activities are rightfully categorized NEAT or Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis.

Stand for phone calls. Start the NEAT activity by mindfully standing up when answering the phone. You could even make it a habit to walk while talking on the phone. In this way, you get the necessary kick when working, energy is up since the muscles are again active. Movement causes muscles to pump fresh blood and oxygen through the brain and set off the release of brain mood-enhancing chemicals.

Walking meetings. Ditch the chairs and choose walking meetings which are ideal when meeting with just one or two people for updates on current projects. Another on the trend is standing meetings. The objective is to have a conference for small group discussions for a shorter time.

Visit a co-worker. There should be lesser phone calls and emails instead take a walk to visit a co-worker to discuss work-related concerns. This practice actually improves the interpersonal relationship among co-workers leading to cooperation and enhance group performance.

Follow the 10-minute rule. Whenever you’re working at a computer, stand up or move for AT LEAST 10 minutes every 60 minutes. This will stretch your back and legs. Do simple yoga poses. Use this time to perform tasks that can be done while standing, such as making phone calls and work-related errands.

Take the stairs. Whenever possible, avoid the elevator when going to and from your office floor. This will let you have toned leg muscles.

Person climbing the stairs

Walk a distance. Park the car a bit far away from the office (half a mile, for example). If taking public transit, get off the bus or subway one or two stops before the destination. Biking to work is also a good option!

Walking break time. Use half of lunch hour for a stroll or do a standing lunch.

Use a standing desk. This is commonly suggested by ergonomist and experts such as Dr. Alan Hedge of Cornell University and Dr. James A. Levine of Mayo Clinic. It allows movement from sitting to standing while working; at the same time, it increases focus and productivity. Take a look at this affordable yet quality standing desk converter if you have an existing desk or this sit to stand height adjustable standing desk by AnthroDesk.