Does sitting negate the benefits of a workout? The NEAT method may help

Stock image courtesy of St. George Health and Wellness Magazine, St. George News

FEATURE — The typical American spends about 7.7 hours a day in a sedentary state. For people between the ages of 60-69, it’s closer to 8.5 hours. Research shows that prolonged sitting can be as bad for your health as smoking. How many hours a day do you sit? Are there times when you can stand or move around while completing your assigned tasks? I’m sure we all can improve in this area.

Stock image from Pixabay, St. George News

One way to promote a healthier lifestyle is by increasing nonexercise activity thermogenesis – or NEAT. Your calorie burn throughout the day is created by total daily energy expenditure, resting metabolic rate, thermal effect of food, planned exercise and NEAT.

NEAT is the effect of fidgeting, chewing gum, running errands, doing housework or other types of daily activities. Highly active people expend three times more energy than those who are sedentary. However, there has been a new category coined for those who exercise but sit for the rest of the day. This is referred to as actively sedentary.

Some studies even show that roughly two hours of sitting will cancel out the benefits of that 20-minute workout. Each unit of sitting cancels out 8% of your gain (8% rule) from the same amount of running.

This means that if you run for an hour in the morning but sit for 10 hours during the day, you lose roughly 80% of the health benefit from that morning’s run.

A study published in the medical journal The Lancet noted that if you sit eight hours a day, you need to do 60 minutes of moderate exercise in order to offset the potential harm to your health. It was also suggested by the NIH-AARP diet and health study that exercise and NEAT can play a role in preventing obesity, heart attack, cancer and even premature death.

Prolonged sitting is bad for you no matter how much physical activity you get during the day. The new phrase “sitting is the new smoking” is becoming more and more important to understand. The point is to stand up and move more.

Here are ten tips to help you spend less time sitting while at work:

  • Use a step counter app or wearable device and set up goals that will help you keep moving.
  • Set an alarm to ring once an hour to remind you to get up for a few minutes.
  • Make regular trips to the drinking fountain or water dispenser. This will also promote frequent trips to the bathroom, but there are a million benefits to drinking water, and taking more steps can be considered one of them.
  • Take a t10-minute walk during your lunch hour.
  • Consider using walking meetings with a colleague. I do this all the time. Surprisingly, you get a lot accomplished, and you can get your creative juices flowing.
  • Plan a standing meeting.
  • Pace while you are on a conference call.
  • Use a standing desk or treadmill desk. I have both of these, and they are amazing!
  • Skip sending emails to colleagues; walk over to their desks instead.
  • Take the stairs. The stairs are the cheapest gym anywhere.

So why wait? Get up and take a short walk. Stand for that next meeting. Walk to the water fountain to fill up your water bottle. Every step counts towards a healthier tomorrow. Now isn’t that NEAT?


This article was published in the Nov/Dec. 2021 issue of St. George Health and Wellness magazine.

Article adapted from

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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