Archives for November 2010

Sitting Disease, part #2

Exercise and Sitting Disease

Click here to read the first part of the sitting disease series.

What about the fact that regular vigorous exercise doesn’t necessarily save us from sitting disease?

We have two kinds of muscle cells in our bodies, fast twitch white muscle cells (they take care of vigorous exercise) and red, slow muscle cells (the NEAT activity cells). The vast majority of our muscle cells are slow red muscle cells).

It appears that our NEAT cells only respond to the gentle muscle contractions that are typical to physical activities like walking and doing simple household chores. As much as you would like to, you can’t “activate” those cells by running or doing 50 crunches!


Recent research has revealed that prolonged sitting shuts down the NEAT cells that are involved in breaking fat molecules.  That’s why sitting for long periods of time is so dangerous for health and also why vigorous exercise isn’t an antidote to sitting disease. Remember, in worst case we might sit even 15 hours a day.

The good news is that you can switch NEAT cells on again by simply getting up from your chair. In my opinion, even better news is the fact that NEAT activity is especially good for burning belly fat: you don’t need to run or do those 50 crunches to get rid of belly fat.


I can personally attest to the power of NEAT. Since I bought my Omron Hj-113 pocket pedometer and started increasing my daily steps and other physical activity, I have become much more energetic than I “normally” am.

The best thing is that in the morning I spend no time wondering how to get myself out of the bed. I just jump right out of the bed and get going.  🙂

Better to Live on Your Feet Than Die on Your Seat / James Levine




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.




Workout Journal Week #43

Exercise wise, last week was a good week. According to my Heiaheia training log, I exceeded my weekly goal of 3 hours of exercise by 17 %! That is the first time I reached 3 hours of exercise.

  1. Mon: 30 min walk  & 40 min of Turbulence training
  2. Thu: 30 min walk
  3. Sat: 30 min walk
  4. Sun: 40 min walk & 40 min strength training

The following chart shows the daily steps I took and my weekly average.

On average, I didn’t take as many steps than the week before. That’s because I decided to work at home so I didn’t get the “extra” steps I would have gotten if I had had to walk around the city center. My weekly average was 8014, which means I was “somewhat active”.

From now on, my goal is  to take 5000* steps a day, minimun. I strive to keep my weekly awerage in the range 5000 – 7499, which corresponds to low activity. If I can get higher than that, it’s a bonus!

*Less than 5000 steps means sedentary lifestyle.