Workout While You Work
Reported March 2010
SAN DIEGO (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Whether it's on our couch, in our car, or in our office, the average American spends more than 12 hours a day sitting. Scientists now say all of that down time could be deadly. Even if you exercise in the morning, sitting at a desk all day could erase your hard work.
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New research shows maybe we all should lose our desks for good. A recent study shows the longer people spend sitting, the more likely they are to die prematurely, regardless of fitness levels. The risk of death was more than 1.5 times higher among those who spent almost all of the day sitting compared to those who spend very little time in a chair. Doctors say sitting disrupts how the body metabolizes fuels like glucose and lipids.
"Even if you get up and do your run every morning, if you spend the rest of the day sitting at your desk you can still have some risk factors for disease, which could be a disheartening message to all those exercisers out there," Jacqueline Kerr, Ph.D., an exercise scientist at the University of California, San Diego, told Ivanhoe.
Exercise science and health promotion researchers at the University of California, San Diego are trying to change the way we work. Researcher Ernesto Ramirez built an active desk with a $300 treadmill off eBay, and a $200 desk. Now he's leading a study to see if the walk and work trend will catch on in offices across the country.
"What we're trying to show here is that sitting at work is not the optimal way to be a healthy individual," Ramirez explained.
Ernesto walks five hours a day, burning five hundred calories. That works off a Big Mac. At that pace, he burns 2,500 calories a week or one Pizza Hut pan pizza. In a year, that can add up to a weight loss of 37 pounds.
"If you work for four or five hours, it takes away that muffin or extra treat you get at the coffee shop," Ramirez said.
The team is also working on ways to remind people to get up and move during the day including text message prompts and even devices connected to chairs that tell workers to stand up.
"I had a question I wanted to answer, so I'm online to this question, and I kind of almost forgot I'm actually walking," Greg Norman said, as he worked while on the active desk.
"I would enjoy burning a couple extra calories or a couple hundred extra calories," Maria Steward Bartlett, an active desk user, said.
The team will study how often workers use the active desk, and whether it could reduce health insurance costs or boost productivity.
"If we build it, will they come?" Dr. Kerr asked.
"I don't know if it is for everybody," Norman said.
The active desk is an effort to stop all of the sitting and take strides toward a healthier future.
Researchers say even if you can't work at a treadmill, you can make sure to stand up and walk around the office once every hour. Another tip is to move the printer farther away from your desk. Researchers say along with exercise guidelines, doctors should talk to their patients about sitting guidelines and set limits.
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