Fat to Fit While You Sit

Sitting for long periods of time is extremely bad for us. Whilst our ancestors squatted, hunted, ran and lay horizontally to rest, they rarely ‘sat’ in the position we do.

This means our posture slackens, the hip, back and neck areas tighten, our leg muscles shorten and our stomach and bum grow ever weaker. Sitting is completely sedate and not at all what we were designed for.

There is not really a good thing to say about the act, other than its convenience in our everyday lives. Yet in a desk-bound job, we sit for at least 7 hours a day, not including time spent sitting at the wheel/on public transport, eating, and in front on the TV.

Our metabolism (how quickly we burn calories) can become extremely lacklustre when we sit for prolonged periods; similar to the rate it would be when we’re asleep. We need to minimise the effects that this has on your waistline and health.

Other than becoming a complete social outcast and performing frequent lunges around the office, what practical steps can we take to become healthier at work?

1. Get up! Stand Up!

Standing up doubles your metabolism, burning approx. 100 calories an hour, so ensure you find a reason to stand up and move at least every hour. Reasons/excuses (!) can include:

  • Water breaks - the healthy man’s alternative to a smoke break! If you have a bottle by your desk (aim to drink 2 litres in your work hours) then you’ll need to ‘go’ more, plus you can always top it up at the tap.
  • The old cliché of taking the stairs instead of the lift really does work. Take steps two at a time, or run up them for a little circulation boost that will wake you up and work your muscles too.
  • Standing up regularly and having a quick yawn/stretch won’t draw attention and it’s well worth it to avoid getting stiff and sore. Having a long phone call? Stand up to take it.
  • Meet face-to-face - instead of calling a colleague, emailing, or sending an instant message, why not get up and meet face-to-face? Most things are better said in person anyway.

This is an easy way to put a few more steps into your day and unchain you from your desk.

2. Lunch is for winners

Get out on your lunch break. Even if you only have 15 minutes, a brisk walk will burn a few calories and get that all important metabolic rate kick-started, deliver fresh oxygen to the brain and body, and in turn boost productivity. If you have a full hour, it’s the best time to get out and do an extended exercise session such as a run/gym workout. You can eat at your desk afterwards (Tell the Boss I said so).

3. Make work work!

Be creative with how you get to work. If you can cycle then aim do it everyday, but start once a week. If you are driven in get dropped off a mile away and walk the rest, if that seems too far start small and build up! And then ask to be picked up a mile from work at night. Just try to incorporate some sort of movement into your commute... It all helps.

4. Swiss Balls.

The inflatable orbs that resemble space hoppers can indeed replace your office chair. Sitting on these makes you far more aware of your posture and requires all the stabiliser muscles to kick in to prevent you falling off. You’ll burn twice as many calories sitting on these compared to your standard chair.

5. Fidget to fitness

Studies have shown that natural fidgets burn 350 calories extra per day. This includes toe-tapping, fiddling with your hair, swinging your chair back and forth. So get to it! The trick is to make it subtle enough not to annoy your colleagues.

6. Choose what to chew

80% of all weight loss comes down to what you choose to chew. Top athletes can train 30 hours a week and still gain weight if they over indulge, so 2-3 training sessions a week does not, unfortunately, give you a free pass to Gluttony Central.

At your desk, you can take control of your diet. Eat fresh food instead of processed wherever possible. That means cutting out packaged food with ingredient lists that sound like they come out of a chemical lab. Even low-fat is often a bad choice as it’ll be laden with artificial sweeteners or sugar instead, both of which are bad. Go for food in its simplest forms.

Avoid the biscuit tin.

Don’t be afraid of eating! Losing weight does not mean you need to be hungry for weeks on end. Eat three, substantial healthy meals a day, plus a snack, but cut down on junk and ‘empty’ calories... crisps, sweets, pies, doughnuts, biscuits, chocolate, chips, saturated fat... carbs are not the enemy, the packaged, greasy, sugary stuff is! Top tip: on the whole, try to avoid anything beige... Eat brightly coloured fresh food, and you can’t go far wrong.

7. The liquid in your diet

Hydration: As stated, sip on water frequently through the day to keep hunger at bay and keep the body feeling good. Consuming a 2 litre bottle over 8 hours in an air conditioned unit is not too much.

Diet drinks are the Devil’s Food, and unfortunately do not help weight loss in any capacity. As they taste sweet, the brain expects a sugar-hit, and when it doesn’t get it, it craves sugar even harder, meaning you’ll more than likely overeat as a result.

They also contain Aspartame (E951) which is one E number that should be avoided at all costs. It is bad news. However if you want a small sugar hit have a couple of squares of quality dark chocolate, then wait 20 minutes, and you’ll find the craving subsides.

Coffee fanatic? Watch out. Coffees can vary drastically in terms of what they contain. Starbuck’s Grande Iced Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha has a whopping 400 calories and 9 grams of fat (more calories than a McChicken sandwich). On the flip side, a small Cappucino made with skimmed milk is just 78 calories.

Just the job

Making these small changes will keep you leaner and more energised, and most importantly will really help ward off sedentary diseases such as diabetes and obesity. The human body was designed with movement in mind, so don’t deprive it, and you’ll reap the benefits.

Alice Hector is an ultrarunner and personal trainer, sponsored by Gould Publications Papers UK. For more information on Alice and her athletic career, visit our Alice Hector page here.