A desk job is not an excuse.
There are numerous adverse health effects that come with a sedentary lifestyle. These health effects increase day by day, and what makes this even trickier for people who want to stay or become healthy, is that many jobs require desk work.
Sitting barely increases energy expenditure (EE) above resting levels with a ~3.7% increase (1). So what can you do if have a sedentary job and can’t stand up and walk around every 30 minutes?
Well, a recently published study investigated how you can increase energy expenditure while sitting. The researchers had 16 participants sit in a chair normally or use a device that encourages leg fidgeting. When using the device the participants increased the EE by ~30% (2). Whether or not a 30% increase translates to any meaningful health benefits has yet to be clarified. Furthermore, even though 30% might seem a lot, the EE while sitting is still not substantial and therefore the 30% increase might not be all too impressive. That being said, it can’t hurt your chances if you start swinging your legs, wiggling your foot, or doing any other fidgeting movements while seated. Additionally, moving your legs increases venous return from the legs to the heart, and promotes blood flow, both of which are positive effects (for example, immobilization is linked to blood clots).
The bottom line is, sitting all day is bad. Doing fidgeting movements while sitting increases energy expenditure. We don’t yet know if this increase in energy expenditure results in any meaningful positive health effects, but it’s definitely better than doing nothing.
1. Levine JA, Schleusner SJ, Jensen MD. Energy expenditure of nonexercise activity. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 Dec;72(6):1451–4.
2. Koepp GA, Moore GK, Levine JA. Chair-based fidgeting and energy expenditure. BMJ Open Sport Exerc Med. 2016 Sep 1;2(1):e000152.
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