Millions of workers across the UK are potentially putting their health at risk by spending too long sitting at their desks.
This startling revelation is based on research that those of us with sedentary jobs are not doing enough NEAT exercise. NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) is the energy we use doing everyday tasks (not including sleeping, eating and sports) and includes everything from cleaning the house to hitting the shops.
For many of us sedentary working is the norm and we spend the working week glued to the computer. However, this lack of activity could be doing damage that even regular gym workouts cannot undo.
It is thought that sitting for long periods can impact the body in several ways, including slowing the metabolism and affecting the breakdown of fat – bad news for those looking to shed the pounds.
What’s more, according to the British Heart Foundation*, a sedentary lifestyle can lead to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, weight gain and even poor mental health.
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In those who are mostly sedentary only around 15% of energy expenditure** is through NEAT activity, compare this to highly active individuals whose NEAT activity can account for as much as 50%– and the picture is clear – for those looking to lose weight and get fit, hitting the gym and becoming generally more active is the key.
As a strength & conditioning coach and founder of Back2Fitness, a transformative 12-week fitness programme designed especially for men, Sam Yassin, points out, upping our NEAT activity could have a big impact on our overall well-being:
“So many of us spend time at the gym not really getting anywhere and wondering why. If we are spending the vast part of our day inactive, a 60-minute gym session isn’t going to have much of an impact. Subtle changes in our working lives which get us a bit more active could be the fitness kickstart so many people are looking for.”
Sam’s five ways you can boost your NEAT activity:
1. Don’t pick up the phone
Instead of calling your colleague in the next office get up and see them. Along with helping you get a bit more active it can also help you get to know your workmates better.
2. Take the stairs
It is an obvious one but taking the stairs rather than the lift is an easy, low impact way of adding more activity into your day.
3. Visit other parts of the building
Need the loo? Spend a penny at the toilets furthest away from your desk to help stretch your legs.
4. Don’t spend your lunch break surfing the web
Take a proper break and eat your lunch away from your desk and then go for a short walk in the fresh air. As well as helping counteract the long periods spent sitting, a change of scenery can help re-energise you for the afternoon ahead.
5. Ditch the car
If it is possible, walk to work or use public transport. Along with benefitting your wellbeing it could also help the environment and your pocket too. If walking to work isn’t feasible there are still changes you can make such as parking your car further away from the entrance.
As Sam points out, once you start thinking about your NEAT activity, finding ways to increase it becomes easy: “We are all guilty at times of taking things too easy. However, simply by choosing to stand-up more often and do more low-level activity, even sweeping the kitchen floor. we can all make a significant impact on our wellbeing.”
To learn more about the Back2Fitness programme, visit www.back2fitness.co/