Edited by Kate Findley and proofread by Angela Shoemaker, Wondrium Daily
Americans spend an average of 21 hours per day with no movement, which can cause weight gain and health problems, such as cardiovascular disease. Thankfully, a simple solution exists. Professor Ormsbee explains how to incorporate movement into your day.
Power of Daily Movement
During a 2008 study, researchers gave people devices that measured their movement throughout the day. It turns out that people who took more breaks from sitting had lower waist circumferences, lower BMI, and better glucose control.
The best part is that the average length of the breaks was only 4 ½ minutes. No matter how busy you are, you can find a few minutes to get up and move.
Try something simple like drinking more water so that you have to get up and move to use the bathroom more often. Or, when businesses are fully open after the pandemic ends, instead of calling or sending an e-mail to someone in your building, walk to their office and have a discussion in person.
Even those who fidget throughout the day may see health benefits. During a study with the Mayo Clinic, researchers placed sensors on people to measure their daily movement and found that people who commonly paced or fidgeted during the day were leaner than people who did not fidget as much.
This is called NEAT or non-exercise activity thermogenesis and it includes tapping your feet, bouncing your knees, or even twiddling your thumbs. It seems like nothing, but those tiny movements add up throughout the day.
Reducing Sitting Time
Another option for reducing sitting time is to use a standing desk at work, whether this is at the office or at home. You can even add a walking treadmill underneath your desk.
Find a few minutes at lunch to walk, or make a rule to always stand up when you’re on the phone. Just start small and work up to standing more and more every day.
To burn even more calories, it’s best to shift around and stand in different positions—like one leg up or even kneeling. You can find many tutorials online about the best positions to stand in while working at your desk.
Losing Weight by Shivering?
A concept that has taken off in recent years is to improve body composition with the use of cold thermogenesis as a way to increase energy expenditure. Cold vests on the market promise you’ll burn up to 500 more calories.
Other recommended concepts include taking a cold shower, sitting in an ice bath, or simply being exposed to cold environments throughout the day, if you want to stay thin and lose fat. This may sound a little crazy, but it also might work.
A 2014 study compared the metabolic effects of exercise to the metabolic effects of shivering by covering the study participants with cold, water-filled blankets. The energy expenditure was higher with the exercise than just being cold, but similar increases in a hormone known as irisin were seen in both conditions.
Irisin is a hormone released both during muscle contraction and during shivering. Is cold thermogenesis the answer for weight loss, then?
Although it may increase energy expenditure slightly, there haven’t been studies that show shivering will induce weight loss or fat loss on its own. Some research exists, but the outcomes are mixed.
Thus, a more straightforward and practical examination of cold thermogenesis is needed. It could be worthwhile, but it shouldn’t be relied upon for major changes in body composition.
Michael Ormsbee is an Associate Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food, and Exercise Sciences and Interim Director of the Institute of Sports Sciences and Medicine in the College of Human Sciences at Florida State University. He received his MS in Exercise Physiology from South Dakota State University and his PhD in Bioenergetics from East Carolina University.