Sitting down may be shortening your life and adding inches to your waistline, according to an article in the New York Times. The study, performed by Mayo Clinic researcher James Levine, attempted to answer the question: why do some people, who consume the same amount of food as others, gain weight, and some don't? In an attempt to answer that question, subjects donned "smart underwear" which calculate each minute spent lying, standing, and sitting.
"The people who didn’t gain weight were unconsciously moving around more,” Dr. Jensen, a Mayo Clinic collaborator told the New York Times.
This isn't to be confused with exercising more--that was prohibited by the study--but the simple step of taking extra trips to the water cooler, a stroll around the block on a coffee break, or standing at their desk let active subjects stave off the additional weight gain. Overall, subjects who maintained their weight had an additional two hours of daily movement as compared to subjects who were more sedentary.
The underwear proved it doesn't take much to add movement to your day; they even show a spike of energy output when subjects bent over to tie their shoes.
The sedentary aspect of a life spent sitting in front of computers and televisions effects more than just weight gain. “The muscles go as silent as those of a dead horse,” Marc Hamilton says, an inactivity researcher at Pennington Biomedical Research Center. This decrease in stimulation causes calorie burning rates to plummet (to one calorie per minute) and inhibits the enzymes that break down fat in the bloodstream. All together, these biological effects combine to increase the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and obesity.
This conclusion differs from traditional findings from obesity and weight gain studies that assume aerobic exercise and proper dietary requirements are sufficient stimuli to stave off harmful health risks. “Excessive sitting,” Dr. Levine says, “is a lethal activity.”
Clearly those subjects with active, outdoor jobs scored the highest in Levine's study, but even office-going folks can increase their activity by standing while on the phone, sitting on a medicine ball at work, or even trying a treadmill desk. The extra workday trip down the office hallway just might save your life.
--Ali Taylor Lange