Be Fit For Life

with Ellen Cohen-Kaplan

Benefits of being “NEAT” or how to burn calories without really trying…..

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Last week’s post examined the effects of taking a short walk most days of the week to extend your life.  It also touched on the importance of standing, as opposed to sitting. There has been a rash of studies focused on standing desks, and ways to avoid long periods of sitting while doing desk work. The good news is that standing can reduce the incidence of chronic health problems such as obesity, low back pain, sciatica, and many other conditions caused by being sedentary.

“NEAT” is an acronym for non- exercise activity thermogenesis. Translated, it means the amount of energy you burn when not engaged in exercise, such as standing, walking and fidgeting. Some studies have shown that NEAT can account for the expenditure of up to 2000 additional calories a day,  which I think is really good news! Whenever you have the chance, stand instead of sitting, walk instead of using a car, and fidget to your heart’s delight! The more activity you can pack into your day, and by activity I don’t mean exercise per se, the more you stoke your metabolism. A fascinating article by James Levine of the Mayo Clinic explains this in more detail – http://www.mayoclinic.org/documents/mc5810-0307-pdf/doc-20079082

Many studies have examined the effects of using a standing desk. In one study, results showed that during a typical 8 hour work day, this adaptation decreased the subjects’ sedentary time by  3.2 hours.  Even though activity levels during non-work hours did not change, subjects had an increased sense of well-being, higher energy, decreased fatigue and reduced appetite and dietary intake. Most important, productivity levels were not negatively effected. To learn more, go to http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24968210

Which desk is best for you? A recent article reviewed a variety of standing desks, including ways you can rig a desk inexpensively with a little bit of know-how. One way to insure that a standing desk will work for you is to get an adjustable height desk. There’s been enough buzz about the benefits of standing desks to merit an article comparing the pros and cons of various models. Go to http://thewirecutter.com/reviews/best-standing-desk/ to compare options to see if one is right for you.

The take away? Being active in all kinds of non-exercise ways can make a sizable difference in caloric expenditure, and overall metabolism. A standing desk may be a good solution for those of you who spend time sitting in front of a computer. Here’s to burning calories without breaking a sweat!

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