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Too Many Of Us Spend Our Days
Sitting in Chairs

In the developed world today, most people are sitting in chairs for eight or more hours a day. Whether we drive to an office or work at home, the story is the same. We eat dinner and watch TV sitting on couch or chair. Some of us take time to walk, run, or go to the gym for an hour. Daily exercise burns some calories...but what does sitting do for us?

How many calories does sitting burn?

Take a look at this chart of calories burned per hour.

It is shocking to see that sitting quietly (like reading or watching TV) only burns about 10% more calories than does sleeping.

It is hardly worth getting out of bed for that small increase, is it?

Calories Burned in One Hour
Weight in lbs. Sleeping Sitting quietly Standing, talking Walking  slowly Walking
3 mph
Walking 4 mph
120 49 54 98 109 180 272
130 53 59 106 118 195 295
140 57 64 114 127 210 318
150 61 68 122 136 225 340
160 65 73 131 145 239 363
170 69 77 139 154 254 386
180 73 82 147 163 269 408
190 78 86 155 172 284 431
200 82 91 163 181 299 454

What is more interesting is that we get a big jump in calorie burn just by standing up: more than an 80% increase in calories burned over sitting down. Now that is significant. If we can't stand up all day, we should at least stand up and walk around when we talk on the phone. And stand up every other chance we get.

If we walk 10,000 steps per day and follow a vegan diet centered on these low calorie foods, our weight will gradually normalize at a healthy level. However, even if we exercise daily and maintain normal weight, sitting in chairs can still cause health problems for us.

The physiology of inactivity

Inactivity and lack of exercise are two different things. A sedentary person is someone who has prolongued periods of inactivity. Even if you exercise, too much sitting is harmful. Marc Hamilton, from the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana, says "I think sitting is very dangerous."

Studies show that people who sit for more than six hours a day are 18% to 37% more likely to die of diabetes, heart disease, or other causes than those who sit for less than three hours a day. This is true even for people who exercise daily and are of normal weight. How can this be?

We have an enzyme called lipoprotein lipase (LPL) in the endothelial cells that line our capillaries. This enzyme is important because it grabs fats out of the bloodstream and moves them to the muscles or to fat cells for storage.

After just a few hours of not standing, LPL basically turns off. With LPL suppressed by sitting, harmful triglycerides (fats) build up in our bloodstream, and good HDL cholesterol levels drop.

Take a break from sitting in chairs

When we learned about this research, we were concerned. While we worked for the airlines, we stood up most of the day. Once we retired and started building this website, we spent many hours sitting at the computer. But we learned there are many ways to keep our LPL working normally. Here are some ideas:
  • Put your computer on a small table on top of your desk. Stand up while you use it.

  • Get a combination treadmill and desk. Walk very slowly on the treadmill while you work.

  • Sit on an exercise ball instead of a chair. You will use more muscles to maintain your balance.

  • Get up and walk around for five minutes every hour. We actually set a timer so we won't forget to do this.

  • If you work in an office, walk to deliver messages instead of sending an email.

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