One of my weight loss coaching clients is an online business owner.
She sits at her desk all day working away at the computer, and sometimes finds herself sitting there non-stop for 8-12 hours.
That means many days she’s got her butt in a chair for half of a day!
When you add in TV, driving, eating and sleep time, she’s spending 80% of her day with her ass planted.
That’s crazy unhealthy!
Living this way has started to really affect her health. One, in particular, is that she’s gained 9 pounds in the last 3 months.
Since I know that many of my readers are desk-dwellers, business owners and work from home moms I thought I’d share the dangers of living a “chair-based” lifestyle, along with the strategy that I gave her to reverse this trend so you could follow it too.
How a Chair Based Lifestyle is Killing You
You might assume that, since you sit all day for work, that going to the gym for 30 minutes, 3 times per week is giving you the exercise that you need to control your weight and keep you healthy.
The problem is that exercise is not the perfect remedy to sitting all day for work.
Let me explain…
It’s been thought that the general physical activity recommendation of 30 minutes per day would be enough to counteract the time you’re being inactive while working.
We know now that’s not the case.
In research conducted by Marc Hamilton, an inactivity researcher at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, he studied the effects of only 24 hours of being sedentary on 14 young, lean and fit subjects.
What Hamilton discovered was that, after only 24 hours of being inactive, the subjects showed a whopping 40% reduction in insulin sensitivity. Meaning, they began having trouble clearing glucose from their blood streams after only 1 day!
Hamilton also discovered that people who live a chair based lifestyle have:
- increased triglyceride levels
- decreased HDLs (aka, “good” cholesterol)
- increased risk for diabetes
- decreased metabolic rate
- increased risk for weight gain
What’s more, additional research has shown that women who sat for 6 or more hours each day were 40% more likely to die than women who sat less.
And, unfortunately, these statistics are the same whether you get up out of your work chair and go to the gym or if you simply move to the couch and watch TV.
So, you spend the majority of your day with your ass in a chair. What can you do to prevent the damage being done during that time?
The “Walking 10,000 Steps a Day” Strategy
It should be clear to you that you have to spend less time sitting during the day if you want to lose weight and live a long, healthy life.
So, how do you do that?
You’re going to use the “walking 10,000 steps a day” strategy.
The bottom line is that you have to move more, more frequently.
Walking is one of the most effective ways to increase your metabolism beyond that of when you’re sitting down (yet less effective than doing this type of cardio for weight loss - but hey you have to start somewhere). You can do it at low intensities for long periods of time and it’s easy – there’s no learning curve for you to get started.
Here’s the exact plan I gave to my coaching client I spoke about earlier:
1. Develop your sitting time threshold.
The goal is now to spend as little time sitting down as possible.
Three hours or less is the number that appears in the research as the goal you should shoot for and best for keeping your weight down and other health markers in line.
Considering many of you are sitting for 8 or 9 hours per day just at work, you’ll probably laugh at that number.
If that seems like a stretch for you, for now simply add up all the time you sit during the day and aim to decrease the number of hours by half.
That’s still a lofty goal, but for many of you it will be a lifesaver.
So, if you’re sitting for 12 hours each day (at work, while driving and eating, and while watching TV), then your goal will be to decrease that time to no more than 6 hours.
2. Have a way to track your steps.
I go into great detail on this subject in my ebook, Walking to Lose Weight – A 12 Week Walking Workout Plan, so I will just summarize here.
It is important for you to track your steps throughout the day. Remember, what gets measured gets managed.
Tracking is also a great way to keep you motivated to continue your program.
So, you need a good way of doing so.
There are a variety of methods you can use that I discuss in the book (pedometer from your local department store, a pedometer app on your smart phone), but many of them I have found to be either inaccurate or inconvenient.
The solution that I found to be the easiest to use is the Fibit Wireless Activity Tracker. (Check out my Fitbit review.)
In short, it shows you an accurate step count and can be easily and discretely worn anywhere on your person all day long. I put mine on as soon as I get out of bed and don’t take it off until I go to sleep.
3. Get a baseline step count.
For the first few days you use your pedometer, I want you to simply go about your life as normal. I want you to record the number of steps you take each day and use the average of three days as a baseline.
In my walking book, I suggest doing this for other reasons, however in this case I just want you to know how much more work you’ll have to do each day to meet the 10,000 step goal.
4. Rack up the steps.
There are several ways I suggest you start walking more:
- You need to interrupt your sitting time frequently and go for brief walks.
If you work at home do the laundry, walk up and down your stairs a few times or vacuum.
If you work in an office, walk to the bathroom, go visit a co-worker or walk up and down a few flights of stairs.
- If you’re familiar with the Pomodoro Technique you might want to use that as a guide for work/walk cycles.
In short, set a timer for 25 minutes (there are free apps online) and at the end of that time period you use the next 5 minutes to get up and move around either walking or doing the activities just discussed.
- As part of your morning routine get up and go out for a 20-30 minute walk. This will rack up a few thousand steps right out of the gate and will even boost your metabolism for the next few hours.
- Go for a 20-30 minute walk at lunch time. Again, you’re looking to rack up steps by interrupting your sitting. A nice metabolism boost here for your afternoon as well.
- If you have a dog, walk it. You think you’re the only one suffering the effects of inactivity?
- After dinner, check out how you’ve done for the day. If you have less than 9,000 steps racked up then you better get your butt out for an after dinner walk.
- Take the stairs when possible and use them as a means for extra exercise anytime you can.
- Consider a treadmill desk.
Using a treadmill desk is probably the single best thing you can do to prevent or reverse the inevitable weight gain and decreased health from sitting at your desk while working all day.
Think about it. If you can walk during the time that you formerly sat down, not only will you get to 10,000 steps quickly but you will completely eliminate all of the health risks that sitting down all day causes.
I was really turned onto them and the impact they could make on my own health after I read this book.
i was also surprised to learn that Al Roker, the weatherman on the Today Show, uses a treadmill desk in his office while he works in the afternoon. Even Author A.J. Jacobs writes his books while walking on the treadmill!
It can be done, and these famous people have already figured it out!
Sounds good to me…
Check this out: I added the contents of this blog post to a slide presentation you can click through just to recap the main points:
Results & Wrapping it Up
Since using the “walking 10,000 steps a day” technique my coaching client has lost 5 of the 9 pounds she’d gained in the previous 3 months. The amazing news is that she’s only been doing this for about 5 weeks, so 1 pound a week just from walking and interrupting her sitting is actually spectacular.
Remember, going out and walking 10,000 steps after sitting at your desk all day will not be as effective as using these sessions of “sitting interrupted”, and accumulating the 10,000 steps throughout the day.
Whatever you do, minimizing the amount of time you spend in a chair is your primary goal.
Now I have a question for you…
Do you rack up excessive hours of sitting during the day or know someone who does?
Share your story and how it’s effecting your weight and health.
Also, I just gave you the solution to gaining weight from sitting too much during the day. Would you please share this article with someone you know who could benefit from the solution?
[image credits: MedicalBillingandCoding.org]