We need to become routinely active at work vs. sporadic exercisers after work. Even if you work out vigorously every day after work, you are still at risk of serious disease if you sit all day.
We need to get moving at work.
This is the outline of my “Fit AT Work” brownbag-lunch talk at the Medical Dental Building July 19, 2012. This outline will lead to several other blog posts that go into more detail on some of the topics covered in this talk – as I add them I will include links to them below. If you’d like to attend future talks, check out the schedule of upcoming office fitness talks.
The Hazards of Sitting and Sedentary Behavior
- BBC yesterday observed that sitting now kills as many people as smoking (more people sit than smoke, but still. . . )
- A 1953 British study comparing bus drivers and trolley conductors found that the drivers were twice as likely as the more-active conductors to die of heart disease
- 1961 Atlantic Monthly observed that “We May Be Sitting Ourselves to Death”
- Sedentary research first came to wide attention with Australian research on couch potatoes
- There is now a ton of obesity and “inactivity” research
Overview of Research Findings
- Desk workers 54% more likely to have heart disease
- Sitting for more than 6 hours a day increased risk of death 40% for women and 20% for men compared with those who sat less than 3 hours (not clear what gender difference is about)
- People with sitting jobs have twice the rate of heart disease as those with standing jobs
- Each hour of TV watching can take 11 minutes off of your life
- Prolonged sedentary behavior causes metabolic syndrome, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and other serious diseases
- Risks of sitting and sedentary behavior apply regardless of activity and fitness levels outside of work – Yikes!
“Sitting is an independent risk factor.”(Peter Katzmarzyk, obesity researcher)
Anatomical and Physiological Mechanisms
(random list of some of the things that make sitting so deadly)
- reduced energy expenditure standing job burns 1500 calories/day, sitting 1,000; the typical new office employee puts on 16 pounds within 8 months of starting sedentary desk work
- when sedentary, the body is less efficient at metabolizing sugars and fats
- HDL (good cholesterol) drops 20% after 2 hours of sitting, because function of the enzymes which break down fat in the bloodstream decreases
- after only brief sitting, there is a 40 percent reduction in insulin’s ability to uptake glucose
- fascial adaptation – shortened hip flexors, lengthened shoulder retractors, etc. reduce flexibility, alter posture
- muscle function – unused muscles actually forget how to work (glutes, e.g.)
- DVT (deep vein thrombosis) risk rises with prolonged sitting
- inflammation indicators (C-reactive protein (CRP), Leptin (hormone that also signals satiety), Interleukin-6 (IL-6), Adiponectin) increase with sedentariness
This is scary news. It doesn’t matter how thin you are or how fit you are. If you sit all day, you will die sooner.
The NEAT Concept
NEAT stands for Non-Exercise-Activity Thermogenesis. According to the doctor who coined the term, it is “the energy expenditure of all physical activities other than volitional sporting-like exercise.” Picture a spectrum:
Sedentary (sitting, e.g.) <—————-> NEAT <—————-> Exercise (jogging, e.g.)
If we can routinely incorporate more NEAT activities into our work day, thereby reducing our sedentary time, we can reduce the hazards of of a desk job.
The rest of this talk is about NEAT activities and other exercises that you can easily do right at your desk.
New Practices to Develop/Routine-ize
- stand to use phone – whenever it rings, get up; Pavlov’s office worker
- read standing up – get an easel or music stand
- walking meetings – if just one or two other people and no props needed
- walk down hall instead of calling or IM-ing a colleague
- get off the bus a couple of stops early
- park at the far end of the parking lot
- take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator
- set a timer/reminder and get up and stretch every 30-50 minutes
- drink lots of water (have to get up for water, and for trips to restroom)
- your ideas?
Gadgets/Gear That Can Help You Be More NEAT at Work
- standing desk
- bike desk
- treadmill desk
- elliptical desk
- exercise ball
Before we talk about exercises, a quick look at office posture
- lure of the monitor pulls head forward
- reaching for the keyboard and mouse and pronating palms/internally rotating arms leads to shoulder roll
- body following head and shoulders leads to torso slump
- viscera and internal organs crushed by collapsing rib cage
- hip flexion shortens iliacus, psoas, rectus femoris, and tensor fascia latae muscle fascia
- leg flexion shortens hamstrings and calf muscle fascia
- hamstrings are crushed (exacerbated by chairs with upward lip at front of seat)
Goal: stretch the short muscles, strengthen/engage the long muscles
Hold each stretch 20-30 seconds.
- shallow lunge – foot of hip to be stretched back, other foot forward; square up hips (rotate hip to be stretched toward front if necessary); slide front food forward so knee is over toes
- low back vertical extension – hands on hips, thumbs on crest of hip bones, push hips forward and shoulders back
- pecs/anterior deltoid – arms out to side (try several different angles); inhale forward; exhale and take arms back and hold 20-30 seconds
- subscapularis stretch – externally rotate arm; help with doorway (CRAC method)
- lat stretch at copier – hold copier, counter, or other solid object with hands, bend 90 degrees at hips, lean back to stretch lats
Can do all of these right at your desk, without equipment, and without breaking a sweat.
- squat – feet shoulder width apart, arms out in front (for balance), stick butt out, keep chest up, squat until thighs are parallel to floor, back to vertial; repeat 8-20 times
- leg abduction – (hold a chair or similar if needed for balance) raise one leg to side; repeat 8-15 times each leg
- push ups/desk ups – if floor and clothing permit, do regular push-ups on floor; if not, do “desk-ups” – lean against desk and do 10-20 repetitions
- lower traps – lift straight arms to 135 degrees, pull shoulder blades down and toward center of back; 10-20 reps
- biceps curls – with light dumbbell, phone book, or other somewhat heavy item that is handy
- internal/external shoulder rotation – isometric resistance with other hand
- leg extension (if floor is an option and clothing permits) – kneel on all fours, bend one leg to 90 degrees and lift foot straight toward ceiling; repeat 8-15 times each leg
If private office, storage room, or similar permits:
- jumping jacks
- jump rope
If you’re stuck in meeting or on a plane or elsewhere, you can do these exercises right in your chair (but stand up if you can).
- leg circles – big circle originating at hip, or smaller ones at knee and/or ankle
- alphabet with toes – straighten leg and draw each letter of alphabet with your toes
- buttock squeeze – squeeze butt cheeks together, hold for 30-45 seconds, release
- pelvic floor contraction – if you’ve ever learned Kegel exercises, you can do these pretty much anywhere
- ab engagement – tuck your belly button toward your spine (feel abdomen lengthen, like squeezing a water balloon in the middle)
- scapula tuck & retraction – roll each shoulder front to back, pull shoulder blades together
- palm press – hands in praying position, push together for isometric contraction
- hook finger pull – opposite of palm press; firmly hook fingers and pull hands apart; retract shoulder blades at same time