A recent study published in the journal Science explored some of the reasons why self-described sedentary people can be either lean or obese despite having very similar lifestyles. The study was conducted by observing the habits and practices of 10 lean and obese women and 10 lean and obese men using some very cool physical-activity sensing devices.
The researchers found that there were two significant differences in the lean and obese participants: the amount of time spent standing versus time spent sitting. The lean group spent 164 minutes per day moving about their offices or doing other tasks, and being on their feet for 153 minutes more than their obese counterparts. In other words, those in this self-described lean group had about 300 minutes more non-exercise activity each day than their obese counterparts. This led the researchers to an incredible find. They concluded that certain environmental factors heavily contributed to some individuals burning fewer calories per day: up to 350 fewer in the most obese participants of the study. The data led researchers to conclude that non-exercise activity thermogenesis occurs less often in individuals that are less likely to be on their feet. Non-exercise activity thermogenesis, or NEAT, is defined as the resulting energy spent in calorie-efficient activities like fidgeting or standing, and also light activities such as workplace and home environmental demands. The study concludes with the exhortation that the environmental cues of modern life contribute to lower NEAT values in overweight and obese individuals.
Bottom line: Non-exercise activity is a major contributor in maintaining overall wellness, even when factoring in regular exercise. The study mentioned that lifestyle was as much a contributor to exercise program success; frankly, with half of exercisers giving up on new routines within a year, lifestyle changes become an even more important opportunity to combat the ill effects of being a sedentary individual. Commuting, workplace requirements, availability of low-cost high-calorie foods, technological conveniences, and computer-based work are factors that contribute to fewer opportunities for the body to burn calories.
The most successful method to adding daily activities is to create a metabolic profile, which is looking at what you do and for how long during the day (and will be explained further in a future article), and finding moments during those periods where you can include some additional activity, such as standing while working on the computer, or pacing while on the phone. The metabolic profile should also include basal metabolic rate (see my Dec. 14 article: “A Gradual Path To Losing 10 Pounds,” and check out "Using Math and Science to Lose 10 Pounds the Easy Way" at justinwalls.blogspot.com to calculate it.)
To build your profile, record all of your routines lasting longer than 30 minutes from your waking moment until you go to bed, how many minutes you sit during that activity, and how many minutes you spend standing or moving. Divide total number of minutes sitting by your total awake minutes. Compare that percent to your NEAT number, which is the standing and moving number, divided by total awake minutes. Finally, make sure that your meals fill in your basal metabolic rate, or necessary daily calories for life function. Knowing this information allows you to make the changes necessary to meet your goals of cardiovascular fitness, muscle tone, or weight management.
By Justin Walls