June 26, 2013
PBS recently released a great video titled “The Truth About Exercise,” in which Michael Mosley explores (i.e. plays guinea pig for) some of the newest exercise research.
“There should never be an hour that you’re sitting down.” Dr James Levine, the country’s leading movement researcher, explains the concept of NEAT (Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis)– the energy expended during basic movement. He says when you’re seated, “Your body idles, the gunk builds up, the blood sugar levels elevate, the blood fats elevate… you need to be moving every hour.. . .Who’d have ever thought the chair could kill?”
Moderate intensity exercise as the sole means to create a calorie deficit is a fool’s errand. You have to change what you eat. Running at 6 mph for 55 minutes just barely burned enough calories to cancel out Michael’s mid-morning snack of a cappuccino, muffin, and banana.
Exercise has greater benefits than burning calories though. It actually affects how your body processes food. Walking 90 minutes the night before eating a fatty breakfast actually decreased the amount of fat in the blood by about a third. Move more and your body stores less fat!
By engaging in a HIIT (high intensity interval training) program, Michael’s insulin sensitivity improved by 23% over the course of 4 weeks. Astonishingly, this program literally consisted of three 20 second bouts of intense biking 3 times a week. This equates to a total of 12 minutes of exercise over 4 weeks! HIIT has huge potential for those who don’t want to spend a lot of time at the gym.
What does all of this mean for those of you stuck in an office all day? It means there is hope yet! Get up from your desk at least once an hour to take a short walk. Get a standing desk. You end up fidgeting (which leads to NEAT) much more than when you’re stuck in a chair. You can even log your 20 second exercise bouts at work– sprint up your office stairs once in the morning, once at lunch, and once at the end of your day. Take even one of these steps and you’re on your way to a healthy office day.