If you only read one book this year, make sure it is ‘Get Up!’ by Dr James Levine. In this book, Dr Levine explains how the simple act of standing, if done regularly enough, will positively impact our bodies and minds over time. Let’s take a look at some of his key findings.
Excessive sitting is a major cause of weight gain. Although some people are more prone to weight gain than others, being-chair bound affects each and every one of us in one way or another. The wonderful thing, however, is that this mould is easily broken. By incorporating mini day-to-day activities into our daily routines, we can get active, keep the weight off, and stay healthy.
Weight gain is a consequence of sedentariness
‘Sedentariness’ is another word for excessive sitting or lack of movement. As most of our day-to-day involves spending hours behind a desk, in a car or on a couch, our bodies are unable to burn off calories because we are constantly immobile.
Think about a typical workday scenario: You travel to work via car or bus where you sit at a desk until break or lunch time. You get up to use the bathroom before returning to your desk or sitting in the canteen to enjoy your lunch. You then spend the rest of the afternoon back in front of the computer. When the clock strikes home-time, you get into your car or catch the bus home. Finally, after dinner time, you take it easy in front of the TV until bed.
There is a serious lack of bodily movement here, yet we all fall victim to days like this. The reality is, if the food we consume is not able to be used as energy, it will only be stored as fat for later use.
People with obesity have low NEAT
Some people are predisposed to have low Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis and are therefore more prone to gain weight. Others are able to activate their NEAT switches, get up and get moving.
Dr Levine carried out an experiment on a number of volunteers who worked desk jobs and didn’t go to the gym. Throughout this investigation, these volunteers wore sensors to determine their daily movements. The results were not surprising: those who were more obese were found to be sitting a lot more during the day than those who were leaner. – ‘Get Up!’ Dr James Levine, 2014
Activate your NEAT switch to control weight gain
We are creatures of habit, and so changing our routines can prove difficult. The great thing about NEAT, however, is that it is incredibly easy to activate! It doesn’t have to be an intense 2-hour gym session (although it would be great if you could factor in some physical exercise every day), rather, we are talking about simple, everyday actions that can slot right into your routine with little effort.
Start small. Stand up at your desk for two hours a day and gradually extend this to half the day, most of the day, and finally all day. Wash dishes by hand, take the dogs for two walks a day instead of one. Walk to the shops instead of driving, and pace while on the phone. We all lead different lives, so find what works for you and be creative!
Some people adapt very quickly to new changes, others take more time. So don’t panic if it doesn’t come naturally to you. Start small and increase your NEAT gradually week-by-week. Be mindful of your body throughout the day, get out of your chair as often as you can, and be patient with yourself. Before long, you’ll be noticing the difference.
For more on Dr Levine’s research and work at the Mayo Clinic, read his book. Keep an eye on our social pages for more tips on how to incorporate NEAT activities into your daily life.
In the meantime: be mindful, get moving, and have patience.