I'm one of a small group of people who still reads a newspaper most mornings. I'm really glad I did a couple of Sunday mornings ago when I found James Vlahos's article in the New York Times Magazine, What's the most unhealthful thing you do every day? Click on this link to read the article http://tiny.cc/gs6v1
He answered some questions I've been living with for a long time, like why do people who have the same diet and exercise regimes, not have identical weight loss or gain records? And more personally, why does every slice of bread or pasta I eat appear to add to the extra flesh at my waistline?
The culprit it turns out is inactivity, and apparently our exercise four times a week while spending the rest of our time at our computers lifestyle doesn't quality as enough activity. An emerging field of inactivity studies has arisen and Mr. Vlahos volunteered to become a mock research subject to understand how these researchers have been gathering their data. He began by wearing motion tracking underwear, and like the real subjects, he eliminated all exercise, and consumed only food from the research kitchen. Following this protocol, nothing is left to the inaccuracies of poor memory and fudging self-report. Researcher Dr. James Levine, at the Mayo Clinic creates a closed metabolic system which accounts for every calorie consumed and expended.
Initially, researchers expected to find some metabolic factor that would explain why some people don't gain weight while others do. But after six years, with the help of the motion tracking underwear, they discovered that some people were unconsciously moving around more. This motion happened, even when sitting. (If you were one of those kids who got in trouble for squirming in your chair, this could turn out to be a good thing.)
Sitting, according to the researchers interviewed in the article, is not good for our health and well being. When we are sitting, our calorie burning rate plunges to one per minute, instead of three per minute when we stand or walk. The risk of type 2 diabetes rises along with the risk for obesity. And over a life time, according to one study, the men who sat for six hours or more a day had a death rate 40 percent higher than those you didn't. So sitting too much can take years off your life.
This makes sense to me and has made me more determined to change my practices around working at my computer. Here are some actions in addition to my Zumba class that I am taking and I am pledging to stick to more systematically in the future. Let me hear from you about yours.
1) Setting the timer on my cell phone to interrupt my sitting once an hour.
2) Stretching and twisting in my chair while I'm typing and reading on line.
3) Taking the stairs and a brief walk every morning and afternoon.
4) Wiggling and squirming and moving the muscles of my face and hands. Turns out these micro-movements count to your metabolism.
5) Here's a practice from InterPlay - we remind each other often, "Take a deep breath and let it out with a sigh."
6) And in InterPlay we even have a tee shirt for this one, "Shake out whatever you're sitting on."
Sheila K. Collins © 2011