With every New Year, many of us make new resolutions to combat old problems. Perhaps you have decided that you will make one decisive manoeuvre to finally end the Battle of the Bulge once and for all.
If you have resolved to be less of a potato by standing more and reclining less in your chair, you may want to adopt a different strategy to outgun your fatty enemy, especially if time is not on your side e.g. preparing for an upcoming wedding, dinner & dance or trying to fit into your favourite outfit again.
The Strategy Cannot Stand On Its Own
Turns out, a new study found that while standing on two feet consumes more energy than sitting on your bottom, the difference is hardly significant enough to convince anyone serious about losing weight to simply ditch the chair and weight for the scales to go down.
But that’s not to say you should not adopt it as part of a holistic weight management strategy. After all, effective weight-loss in the 21st century is about finding every opportunity in everyday living to increase our calorie debt, or simply the difference between energy intake and expenditure.
Stand Against The Fat Enemy
There have been many ideas, adopted practices and even a little help from technology to give us reasons to stand on our own two feet and rely less on our butts: standing work desks, angled benches and fitness trackers or apps that beep every half an hour or so to nag at you to get up.
Science is on the side of standing. Human and animal studies have shown that prolonged duration of inactivity can alter the body’s physiological conditions in various ways detrimental to health, such as reduced blood flow to the head and legs, deteriorated health of blood vessels and impaired control of blood pressure and sugar.
In short, your sedentary lifestyle that includes prolonged sitting throughout long office hours and couch potato habits, among others, can increase your risks of developing diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, weight-related diseases and heighten the risk of premature death.
But Can It Stand Against Weight Gain?
Past studies that we often cite or were cited to have sounded encouraging, most indicating that we can expend additional hundreds of calories just by standing instead of sitting. But many of these studies were plagued by inaccuracy in the tests, such as subjects walking around or performing chores in the upright department or subjects in the sitting corner having to sit completely still.
Researchers from the University of Bath in England and California’s Westmont College believed that these studies’ methods were flawed and gave results that inflated the energy expenditure gap between standing and sitting.
So in the new study, they recruited 46 men and women in the normal weight range and determined their average energy use and metabolic rates based on their general health and activity. They then had the subjects sit, recline and stand upright according to natural day-to-day behaviours and activities, for a more accurate and representative model of the general public, and measured the calories burnt during the test. The researchers then compared the calories burnt between the moments when the subjects were seated, reclining and upright.
While the difference was noticeable, they were nonetheless small when viewed from the bigger picture of how much energy we spend on an average day. The subjects used up about 3 per cent more energy sitting as compared to lying down, and standing upright burnt 12 per cent more as compared to sitting.
With this, the researchers estimate that the average person can be expected to burn about an additional 9 calories per hour of standing versus that of sitting. And if the standing time is doubled to two hours a day, that translates to 130 extra calories burnt over a week’s duration. In the realistic world, these figures are inconsequential in your efforts to lose weight; the values are just too small to make any significant contributions.
But You Can Maximise Your Standing Time
Do not despair just yet, though. While you do not have to carve out extra time and space to stay standing upright, there are many ways you can maximise your existing time that you do.
See Ya Later, Elevator
One way you can maximise the time spent on your feet, such as during commutes, shopping, or simply on your way to your doorstep, take the stairs instead. Instead of taking the elevators or escalators, make quick paces on the steps to get your heart pumping a little faster than usual. Of course, if your destination is beyond 3-4 floors, you can get off the elevator prematurely and complete the rest of the way by the stairs. Not only does this help burn more calories with little time cost, but it also wakes you up!
Alight Early And Achieve a Lighter Body
If you are taking the bus or train, you can either get off the vehicle one or two stops earlier and complete the rest of your journey on foot. You can also walk towards the next stop or next few stops; not only can you get some activity done, but you can also cool off in the bus or train as you head for your destination proper. If you are feeling slightly ambitious, quicken your pace to gain an additional advantage. Above getting the exercise, you can soak up some sunlight and fresh air!
Make Your Home A Gym
No, we don’t mean to put dumbbells and weight machines in your home. If you are going to do the house chores anyway, make it into a workout for you too! Mop and sweep your floor with extra vigour, scrub your sink and bathroom thoroughly or cook with minimal powered tools to squeeze out every ounce of exercise out of an otherwise mundane obligation. If you are not doing the chores, then get cracking already.