A survey by Kings College in London revealed that 48 percent of us gained weight during the first lockdown. It found that just a few weeks of reduced activity, even without eating more, can lead to weight gain!
Professor Mike Loosemore, a consultant sports physician at the Institute of Sport, Exercise & Health in London says: ‘Although formal exercise is good there is a separate risk factor in not keeping up with NEAT activity’. (NEAT = Non-exercise Activity Thermogenesis).
NEAT is the energy you expend throughout daily life apart from sleeping, eating and formal exercise. This might be the energy you expend from walking to work, or gardening, taking a shower, shopping – all the way to fidgeting!
If you sit all day and run three miles, excellent. But you haven’t got rid of the risk factors from sitting down. Too many people think that they can slump on the sofa if they go for a run. Public Health England advises us to aim for 30 minutes of daily exercise but also warns us to minimise the amount of time spent being sedentary and to break up periods of sitting with light physical activity. This warning is something that office workers should be specially aware of.
A seminal study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that those who sit for six or more hours a day have an increased risk of premature death from a wide range of causes including cardio vascular disease, cancer, diabetes and Alzheimers, than those who sit for fewer than three hours.
NEAT is hugely impacted by working from home but every bit of movement helps. There is good evidence that fidgety people don’t put on as much weight. Fidgeting counts as anything from regularly shifting sitting position to toe tapping, twiddling your thumbs, playing with your hair, boiling a kettle, etc. Office workers should make a habit of getting up from their desk every 20 minutes for a short stroll. The same applies when watching TV.
Become aware of how much NEAT you have lost during lockdown. The answer may be as simple as standing more. If we stand for three hours a day, after a year we would have burned as many calories as running ten marathons because standing burns 0.7 calories more per minute than sitting. That’s 8lbs of fat over a year!
So let’s sit less during lockdown and get fidgeting!