As a bonus, I’ll also reveal you what is the most dangerous physical activity besides sitting.
But let’s start.
It may or may not be news to you that sedentary living (the sitting lifestyle) is one reason our waistlines are expanding. But did you also know that simply standing up and walking may be a good way to lose belly fat?
Interested? I hope so.
Scientists have spent decades studying the connection between exercise, metabolism and health. Recently, some scientists started studying the effect of physical inactivity has on us. It’s about time too, because during the last 50 years or so we have started spending more and more of our time sitting because of all the labor-saving technology.
And thanks to the latest wave of inactivity-inducing technology – computers and the Internet – many of us start our sitting career as children (I’m thinking especially about the children who play lots of computer games).
But lets get back to the research on physical inactivity.
It has already revealed surprising things about the connection between inactivity, metabolism and health.
Because it’s easier to explain things using concrete examples, I’ll introduce you to Frank and Sue.
Frank and Sue spend their days like most of us: first thing in the morning, Frank and Sue drive their car to work. Then they sit 8-10 hours at work, and drive home again. When they arrive at home exhausted from all that sitting, Frank and Sue plop themselves in front of the tv set (or Internet) and spend the rest of evening with a couch firmly glued to their backsides.
Next, let’s imagine that unlike typical Americans (or Finns), Frank and Sue like to exercise and visit the local gym four times a week. Isn’t that enough to offset all that time spent sitting?
Not really. It seems that the more you sit, the worse you are, health wise, even if you exercise vigorously several times a week. To make the point even clearer: if Sue spent 4 hours a day sitting at work while Frank spends 8 hours, Sue would better off than Frank, even if they both still exercised 4 times a week. And Frank is also more likely to get diabetes, heart disease and cancer than Sue.
What Has All This To Do With Losing Belly Fat?
Walking and other gentle forms of physical activity – like household chores – seem to effectively tap belly fat reserves. How does it work, exactly? Standing up, walking and other gentle activities fire up deep postural muscles which in turn activate enzymes whose task is to break fat molecules in the blood.
If you sit for a few hours, these fat “annihilating” enzymes switch off. If you sit for the entire day, their activity drops by 50 percent.
To stop this process, you simply need to stand up from your chair and take a few steps – perhaps even walk around the block – and those fat breaking enzymes switch on again.
According to exercise physiologist Travis Saunders, research doesn’t yet tell whether it’s enough just to interrupt sitting as often as possible or should you rather reduce time spent sitting as much as possible.*
I think all this is both good news and bad news.
The good news is that avoiding diseases caused by our modern sedentary lifestyle (and losing belly fat) might be as simple as engaging in simple everyday activities like walking and household chores. No need to go to the gym or run a marathon, unless that’s what you want!
The bad news is that modern technology has robbed us of many opportunities to be physically active in everyday life. We have to be outright creative to become physically active again.
Now for the bonus revelation. So, what is the worst activity I mentioned in the beginning? Watching telly of course. Besides putting those fat breaking enzymes to sleep, watching television for hours on end puts our brains to sleep too. You’ll end up a screen zombie in addition to couch potato!
Now it’s your turn to take action (my fingers are tired of all the typing I have done) and get up from your chair and take a few steps. Is your home in need of vacuuming, perhaps?
P.S. In terms of losing belly fat, walking really seems to work wonders for me. My belly has been shrinking ever since I started walking 10,000 steps a day, even though I don’t restrict my calories much. Part of my 10,000 steps is achieved by pretty vigorous walking though, not merely gentle strolling.
*Darya Pino and Travis Saunders discuss exercise and weight loss http://summertomato.com/exercise-and-weight-loss/
Levine & Yeager (2009): Move a Little, Lose a Lot