Taking the First Step One of the most underappreciated fitness fads lately? All-day movement. No, seriously. You see, while the advancements we’ve made in the tech world are nothing short of inspiring, and certainly helpful, they’re not necessarily improving every aspect of our lives. Mayo Clinic researchers estimate that we burn 1,500 to 2,400 fewer calories per day (per day!) than we did just 50 years ago.
Seems crazy, right? Consider this stat: According to a poll of nearly 6,300 people by the Institute for Medicine and Public Health at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, it’s likely that you spend a stunning 56 hours a week sitting—staring at a computer screen, working the steering wheel, or collapsed in a heap in front of your high-def TV. And it turns out women may be more sedentary than men, since they tend to play fewer sports and hold less active jobs.
This downtime is now so prevalent that it has paved the road for a new area of medical study called inactivity physiology, which explores the effects of our increasingly butt-bound lives, as well as a deadly epidemic researchers have dubbed “sitting disease.”
When muscles—especially the ones in your lower body—are immobile, circulation slows and you burn fewer calories. Key flab-burning enzymes responsible for breaking down triglycerides (a type of fat) simply start switching off. Sit for a full day and those fat burners plummet by 50 percent. The less you move, the less blood sugar your body uses; research shows that for every 2 hours spent on your backside per day, your chance of contracting diabetes goes up by 7 percent. Your risk for heart disease goes up, too, because enzymes that keep blood fats in check are inactive. Inactivity can also raise hell on your posture and spine health: Your hip flexors and hamstrings shorten and tighten, while the muscles that support your spine become weak and stiff. Not to mention that, with less blood flow, fewer feel-good hormones are circulating to your brain, making you more prone to depression.
More bad news: Even if you exercise, you’re not immune to these effects. We’ve become so sedentary that 30 minutes a day at the gym may not do enough to counteract the detrimental effects of 8, 9, or 10 hours of sitting. This is one big reason why so many women still struggle with weight, blood sugar, and cholesterol woes despite having consistent workout routines.