Top Ten Reasons to Move: Why Sitting is Such a Hazard to Health
by Laura Putnam, MA, CEO & founder Motion Infusion
We all know about the importance of physical activity. It turns out, though, that getting a daily workout is not enough. The real key is getting more so-called “NEAT,” or Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, a phrase coined by James Levine, head of the obesity research team at the Mayo Clinic. Very simply, NEAT means getting out of our chairs, standing and staying in motion throughout the day, everyday.
So, go ahead: join the movement to get more NEAT!
1. More NEAT is key. Physical activity comes in two flavors: EAT and NEAT. EAT, which stands for exercise activity thermogenesis, refers to any type of intentional workout, such as going to the gym or playing a sport. NEAT, or non-exercise activity thermogenesis, refers to any incidental movement throughout the day. Over the past several decades, our NEAT levels have plummeted – contributing to the obesity epidemic and rise in chronic diseases (like heart disease) that we’re facing today.
2. We’re designed to move. While we may be culturally mandated to sit, we are biologically designed to move. As hunters and gatherers, we were moving up to 20 miles a day! In other words, we evolved through movement – and this is what our bodies are still programmed to do.
3. We’re sitting way too much. On average, we’re sitting about 13 hours a day and 86 percent of us are pretty much sitting all day, every day. Here’s the problem: too much sitting may be as little as 3 hours a day! Within a shockingly short span of time (a couple of hours), our bodies experience changes on a cellular level that put us at much greater risk than when we’re moving (or even standing).
4. Exercise does NOT negate the negative effects of too much sitting. That’s right – while getting a workout is good, it does NOT offset the effects of too much sitting. We still need to stay on our feet – and preferably moving – throughout the day.
5. Too much sitting is really bad – especially if you’re a woman. According to multiple studies, including a recent one conducted by the American Cancer Society that followed over 123,000 participants over a 14-year period, too much sitting is literally killing us. If you’re a man and you’re sitting more than 6 hours a day, your risk of death goes up by about 20%. For women, it’s double that – almost 40%!
6. Even standing is better than sitting. When we stand, we burn twice as many calories as when we sit. Researchers at Stanford have calculated that we can save ourselves from gaining 11 pounds every 10 years simply by standing up for 2 minutes every hour, assuming an 8-hour workday. If we can stand up and move throughout the day – even better.
7. Sitting puts twice as much pressure on our spine than when we’re standing and moving. If you consider that 8 out of 10 adults in the US will suffer from chronic back pain at some point in their lives, this is significant. For Americans under the age of 45, back pain is the leading cause of disability. And, second only to the common cold, low back pain is the leading cause of missed work.
8. When we move, we get healthier. A team led by cardiologist Jarrett Berry at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical has shown that the benefits of getting active outweigh the benefits of quitting smoking when it comes to longevity. That’s why many researchers are now calling sitting the “new smoking.”
9. When we move, we get happier. Scientists at Duke University have found that getting active is as effective as Zoloft for treating depression (and without any side effects!).
10. When we move, we even get smarter (it’s true!). The CA Department of Education has repeatedly shown that kids who are physically active do better than their less active peers. Want to prevent the onset of dementia? Then, get active and you’ll reduce your chances by half! Want to get more innovative? Then, get moving and you’ll not only increase the synapses (connections) between brain cells, you’ll even produce new ones.
Remember: While we may be culturally mandated to sit, we are biologically designed to move. When we stand up more and move more – especially throughout the day – we are taking steps to get healthier, more engaged and more productive. So, go ahead: stand up & join the movement!
About Laura Laura Putnam, MA, CEO and founder of Motion Infusion Inc., is a speaker, trainer and consultant on employee well-being and human performance. She consults with fortune 500 companies, nonprofit organizations and academic institutions, using a movement-based approach to improve health, engagement and innovation in the workplace — with a dual focus on enacting individual behavioral changes and facilitating broader organizational changes. She is also a frequent speaker at national and international conferences and events, covering topics such as health promotion, motivation and behavior change, human performance, creativity and innovation, and building a strong organizational culture.
Prior to founding Motion Infusion, Inc., Laura worked in education and public policy as a teacher in urban public high schools, a director of a youth-leadership organization, and as a staff member on the Senate Antitrust Subcommittee. She was a nationally competitive collegiate gymnast, a professional dancer and is a certified Pilates and fitness instructor. Laura holds a Bachelor’s degree from Stanford University in International Relations and a Masters in Education from Brown University.