Lethargic, Overweight, Depressed? You Might Have a Sitting Disease.

Until two weeks ago, I wasn’t familiar with the term ” sitting disease”.  I discovered it by accident when I brainstormed ways to sneak physical activity into my life. I bought a book on Amazon named “Move a little, lose a lot: New NEAT Science Reveals How to be Thinner, Happier, and Smarter“, written by a Mayo Clinic obesity expert James A. Levine and Selene Yeager.

Basically, sitting disease is an umberella term researchers use to talk about the consequences of modern sedentary lifestyle:

…obesity, high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, diabetes, fatigue, depression, attention problems, depression, fatigue and musculoskeleteal pains and aches…

Sound familiar?

I felt I had finally found a name for my “condition”. And it seems I’m not the only one suffering form it.


According to James Levine, the main culprit behind the current obesity epidemic is the modern lifestyle that has gradually robbed us of opportunities fo be physically acitive in everyday life.

And when Levine is talks about physical activity,  he’s not referring to structured exercise but all those mundane physical activities involved in living our lives – doing household chores, running errands, preparing meals, folding laundry, playing with kids, walking the dog and gardening. (This physical activity is called “nonexercise activity thermogenesis” or for short, NEAT).

Levine also argues that dieting and adding more “exercise” to our weekly routine leave a lot to hope for as weight loss strategies.


Sitting disease, obesity and weight loss

Levine believes dieting and structured exercise aren’t the best solution to the obesity epidemic. According to him, a better way to lose weight and regain health would be to increase the amount of daily physical activity to the level it was 50 years ago.

To make the point clear, I try to present a concrete example of how much adding a few hours of vigorous exercise per week compares to adding physical activity back into everyday life would affect daily calorie consumption.

I use myself as a guinea pig. Let’s assume that my basal metabolic rate is 1400 kcal /day (Remember, I’m a shorty!) According to Levine, we might have lost as much as 2000 daily calories as a result of automated lifestyle we spend mostly sitting. If I could add that 2000 kcal of worth of physical activity back into my life, I could eat 1400 + 2000 = 3400 kcal a day without gaining weight. 2000 kcal/day sounds a bit extreme to me, but adding even 1000 calories worth of everyday physical activity to my life would allow me to eat 2400 kcal/ day without gaining weight. Sounds good!

If I would add 4 hours of vigorous activity (300 kcal/ hour) to my week, I would consume (4x 300 kcal)/7 = 171 “extra” calories a day.

I would rather try to maximize my physical activity during the day than try to “exercise”. Needless to say, I doubt I would be 20-30 pounds overweight (like I’m now) if I consistently consumed even 2400 kcal/day.


My post got so long so I decided to publish it in two parts. Click here to read the second part.




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