More and more it seems that we live our lives from a seated position. Many Americans drive to work, sit in an office chair for eight hours, drive home, and sit on the couch or at a desk for the majority of their free time.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over one in every three Americans is obese. An even higher percentage is overweight.
It seems very possible that this must be due to a decrease in exercise and an unhealthy diet. While this would be a convenient theory, numerous experts have rejected this as a legitimate explanation as to why the country is suffering from its current obesity epidemic.
"People eat better and exercise more today than they did in the 1970's, yet obesity rates continue to rise," says lead author Carl-Étienne Juneau a researcher at the Université de Montréal Department of Social and Preventive Medicine. "My hypothesis is that our professional life is linked to this seemingly contradictory phenomenon."
A study conducted in the US supports Juneau's theory. The study shows that people who work desk jobs have a 27% higher mortality rate than people who work more active occupations.
The New York Times points out that in 1960, 50% of American jobs required significant physical activity. Today, however, that number is down to 20%. The remaining 80% of American jobs are sedentary, meaning they are performed almost entirely while seated.
If the problem is that too many people work desk jobs, what is the proposed solution? One expert, Josh Bezoni, believes that we have options besides quitting our day jobs.
Bezoni is a nutritionist, best-selling author, leading health entrepreneur, and philanthropist. He is the co-founder and CEO of BioTrust Nutrition, America’s fastest-growing all-natural and premium nutrition company.
Bezoni believes he has pinpointed the problem. Sitting for long periods of time, he points out, can be extremely harmful to one's health.
"The moment you sit down your calorie-burning drops significantly because you disengage the muscles of the lower body. Your heart rate also drops and your body becomes primed to store the calories you eat as fat instead of fuel."
There is plenty of evidence supporting Bezoni's claim. The American College of Cardiology recently published a shocking new study that suggests sitting for long periods of time can be as harmful to a person's health as smoking.
When asked about specific actions that can be taken to improve one's metabolism, Bezoni said, “There are many exercises that can be done in the office. Sitting on an exercise ball instead of an office chair, for instance, provides some serious exercise. Using a treadmill desk while you send e-mails or talk on the phone is a great option. You can also do a few minutes of jumping jacks or body weight squats every 90 minutes to keep your muscles engaged."
He continued, "I also recommend taking a walk on your lunch break and taking the stairs whenever possible. It’s also important to incorporate physical activity into your life when you’re not at work. You should be getting 60 minutes of exercise daily. This can include going to the gym, taking a dance class, joining a sports team, or doing yoga. It's important to keep it fun so you stick with it. ”
Exercise in not the only answer to the problems created by living a sedentary lifestyle. “What people working in an office miss out on most is sunshine, which is a major source of Vitamin D. The typical American diet only provides 5% of the Vitamin D requirement. It’s essential for health if you’re not getting enough sunshine during the day at your job,” said Bezoni.
At the end of the day, what our body craves is balance. Too much of a seemingly harmless thing, such as sitting, can prove to be deadly over time. This is why Josh Bezoni suggests we take a look at our respective lives, identify what we may be lacking, whether it may be sunshine, green vegetables, or exercise, and make a concerted effort to increase its presence in our lives.
“If you’re working a sedentary job, you need to be balanced in other ways. This includes getting exercise daily and eating a nutritionally rich diet."
Sounds simple enough. Does it work in reality? Let us know.