There’s no denying that the majority of Americans are struggling to lose weight or struggling to keep it off.
We have entered a phase in American history where hours of Netflix, video games, and phone scrolling is considered the new normal. And by golly, we can do it from the convenience of our comfy living room couch! Unfortunately, these new habits are doing nothing for our overall health – and it’s more than just preventing weight loss.
In my current job, I work with many large companies in the East Tennessee area. Part of my job involves performing health screenings at various events – one of these being bone density screenings using a heel bone machine (not diagnostic like a DEXA scan, but it tends to be very accurate). To my surprise, we have caught many young adults (20-30 years) with lower bone densities – something you would typically see in those 40+.
Low bone density can be attributed to a variety of factors (genetics, alcohol intake, lack of calcium/vitamin D, medications, etc.) of course, but part of the reason for these results (I believe) is due to inactivity – the time when all of our most treasured entertainment can be had sitting down.
So, not only does our inactivity lead to weight gain, heart disease, and Type 2 Diabetes but it can also lower your bone density over time, increasing your risk for osteoporosis – not fun!
The only way we can avoid the above is to develop new habits that promote moving again. To most people’s surprise, simply walking is good exercise for our overall health. Even if you can’t run, jog, do spartan races, or run the Boston marathon, simply moving more throughout your day can have profound benefits for weight loss. Reason being – moving more throughout your day raises what we call your NEAT – or your Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis.
NEAT is basically all activities you do throughout the day that don’t include sitting (and yes that includes Netflix!), sleeping, and eating. So to increase your NEAT, you just have to move more.
If you’re like me and enjoy your time sitting down watching your favorite Netflix shows & keeping up with those kids on Stranger Things, check out the tips below to avoiding falling into what I call the “sedentary spiral”:
- Park further away when going to the grocery store, mall, work, and other events
- At work, get up every 30 minutes and walk around for 2-5 minutes
- If you’re playing a video game, get up every 30 minutes to walk around your house/apartment for a few minutes
- If binging Netflix episodes, go for a 10-minute walk between episodes (pace around your house or go outside)
- Eat lunch at your desk and use your lunch break to go walk if time permits
- Set reminders on your FitBit or other fitness device to move every hour
- Make it a game and get creative: For example, when putting laundry away from the dryer, take out one piece of clothing at a time, put it away and continue until complete
- Don’t use your trashcan by your desk at work – get up and walk around to a trash can further away
On a side note, if you’re thinking about getting a standing desk at work – you might want to consider the recent research on the topic. New studies are finding that standing desks may help alleviate some back pain but do not fulfill daily exercise requirements and can lead to even more pain if not used correctly.
Standing desks should not replace sitting. Ergonomics experts recommend alternating between sitting and standing throughout the day as always standing can put stress on the joints as well. A better option for some may be to simply take more breaks and move more while working instead of simply standing. Just some food for thought.
So, if you’ve been struggling to get off those unwanted pounds or simply want to feel better and benefit your health – try to get in the habit of moving around more. You might even be surprised how much more energy you have by simply getting up more frequently.