I love how the universe works (except for when I’m being impatient).  A year ago I came across an article featuring a physician at the Mayo Clinic by the name of James Levine, M.D., Ph.D., who was studying the positive affects of what he calls “N.E.A.T.” or non-exercise activity thermogenesis.  N.E.A.T. is taking the stairs, standing up while taking calls, walking the dog instead of letting it out the back door, conducting walking meetings – basically any movement above your basal metabolic rate that is not strenuous exercise.  His theory is that you can lose a significant amount of weight and improve your health by simply being more active throughout the day instead of being sedentary.  I loved the article, tore it out and filed it.

A friend of mine recently landed a job at a company called Muve, which is associated with the Mayo Clinic and is based on the work of Dr. Levine.  (Hello, universe!)  He gave me a copy of Dr. Levine’s book and here’s a great exerpt:  “Sitting was once a break in a busy day.  Now it is the singular way most of us spend our time.  Take a moment to reflect on a typical day.  How did you get to work?  Like 98 percent of Americans, you probably either drove or sat on a bus, train, or subway car.  If you work in an office, the rest of your day was likely spent chairbound – at your desk, in endless meetings, or having lunch.  What do you do after work?  Sit down at the computer to pay some bills, shop online, catch up on e-mail?  And after that?  Maybe kick back and unwind with a few of your favorite shows?”  Huh.

This is something that I speak about often – the need for movement.  I want you to think about how our bodies were designed to function before today’s technological advances.  We have all sorts of labor saving devices, many of our jobs involve very little movement and most of us drive to and from our destinations.

From an evolutionary perspective our bodies and brains developed while working out.  Our ancestors moved between 8-12 miles per day getting food and resources.  Compared to people living long ago, we are very sedentary.  For many people movement consists of going from the bed, to the car, to the office, back to the car, to the couch and then back to the bed.

Because of this our average energy expenditure is 38% less than our Stone Age ancestors.  Even if we did 30 minutes of physical activity every day we’d still be at less than half the energy expenditure for which our genes are encoded.  We are not designed to sit behind a desk for 8-10 hours a day.  If you wanted to create a business or educational environment that was directly opposed to what the brain and body were designed to do, you’d design something like a cubicle or classroom.  Our bodies were designed to move and integrating movement into our workday or school day should only be NORMAL!

Sitting is hard on the body, and it drains your energy.  It’s not how we were physiologically designed to spend most of our time.  Ironically, the more you move, the more energy you have.  I tell my clients “Effort Creates Energy” and any type of movement stimulates your body to create energy.

I’ve been writing a continuing education curriculum for fitness professionals which means I’ve been doing more sitting than what I’m used to.  My back has been killing me, and between sitting and the crappy weather we’ve been having lately it sucks my energy.  Here’s what I’ve done to solve the problem:

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I now stand while working on my computer instead of mashing my butt flat.  My back feels so much better and I’ve got better energy.

And here’s a bonus:  did you know that standing burns 3 times as many calories per hour than sitting?

Yes, that is a wine box my laptop is sitting on.  Zip it and don’t be a hater because I’m classy.  (The benefits of wine continue to amaze me.)

With that being said, I want you to think about how you can incorporate more movement in to your day.

For those of you that work in an office:

  • Can you stand while talking on the phone?
  • Instead of pushing your chair on wheels over to the filing cabinet, get off your butt, stand up and grab what you need.
  • Instead of calling or e-mailing the person 3 cubes away from you, walk over there and have the conversation.
  • Is there a way to raise the height of your desk so you can stand and work?
  • Have walking meetings instead of sitting.
  • ALWAYS take the stairs when presented with the option.
  • Do 3-4 Hit the Deck cards and get an energy boost.

When you’re at home:

  • Put the t.v. in front of that piece of exercise equipment you never seem to use.  Go at a comfortable pace.  (Though intense exercise is still important and should be done several times per week, we also just need to MOVE.)
  • Get rid of your remote control.
  • Turn off the t.v.
  • Play a game with your kids.
  • Go for a short walk.
  • Do 3-4 Hit the Deck cards – who knows – you might get such an energy boost you’ll want to do more?!

Hey – do you have that song “I Like To Move It, Move It” stuck in your head?

You do now.