Unhealthy Combo: Daytime Desk Job, Once-Daily Exercise

By Sarah Densmore

Exercising in one big chunk — even several times a week — may not be enough to keep us healthy if we spend eight hours every day chained to a desk. Preliminary scientific studies have found that staying seated for four or more hours each day is not just unhealthy, it’s potentially life threatening.

Researchers are discovering that those of us who don’t get up and move our arms and legs for a few minutes several times a day are more likely to suffer from obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Chronic sitters are even more likely to die prematurely. These findings hold even if we regularly hit the gym.

Scientists suspect prolonged bouts of sitting cause harmful changes in our blood. Specifically, that inactivity lowers lipoprotein lipase (LPL). Researchers known LPL is key to our bodies properly metabolizing lipids — non-water-soluble compounds, including cholesterol, triglycerides and sterols.

When LPL drops, it can affect the amount of high-density lipoprotein, (the good cholesterol), fatty acids, and muscle glucose — just to name a few. Interestingly, exercising more intensely won’t raise our LPL. It’s moving our entire body many times throughout the day that makes the difference.

Researchers aren’t asking us to give up our treadmills, free weights, or cardio kickboxing. They’re asking us to do what our often much-trimmer ancestors did: live more of our lives in motion.

Here are a few ways we can incorporate more movement into our office-bound days:

  • Forego the e-mail; walk to your co-worker’s desk and deliver the message in person (and stay standing while you do it).

  • Use a distant bathroom, water fountain, and coffee machine, not the ones closest to your desk.

  • Skip the elevator or escalator; take the stairs.

  • Spend five minutes of your break or lunch time walking.

  • Stand and move your legs when you’re talking on the phone.