Inactivity and Weight Gain

Posted by in Health Matters

inactivity at homeIn one of the most cruel added insults to injury stands inactivity. We eat too much. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Americans consume 3,770 calories per day. This is well over the recommended 1,800 calories.

Adding inactivity to the mix creates a deadly cocktail of obesity, health risks, and premature mortality. It happened so innocently. We might not have noticed it happening, let alone attribute anything bad to it. Let’s look at what has gone on.

The Easier Life Equals More Inactivity

Compared to our ancestors, we have a much easier life. We have conveniences that our grandparents may not have imagined. But it has come at a cost. A 2012 study published in The Lancet estimated that inactivity caused 9 percent of the premature deaths worldwide in 2008.

Inactivity has found its way into all areas of our lives. Take work, for example. A 2011 study published in PLoS One estimated that Americans burn more than 100 calories less at work than the workforce did 50 years ago. This trend coincided with an increase in service jobs and a decrease in more labor-intensive work.

Think about it. You can email or text colleagues rather than go to see them. Webinars work fine instead of face-to-face meetings. The pizza guy will deliver your order to the office so you don’t have to go out and get it yourself. The elevator replaces the stairs.

Inactivity at Home

But it doesn’t end there. Things are easier at home. A 2013 study published in PLoS One estimated that employed women spend almost 50 percent less time doing housework than they did 45 years ago. (The researchers referred to this as “household management.”)

This reduction translates into nearly 1,000 calories a week for employed women and a whopping 2,500 calories for unemployed women. It’s easy to see how this increase in inactivity can lead to substantial weight gain over time.

And again, it doesn’t end here. We have more sedentary time with our myriad of devices, whether it’s the TV, your smartphone, the computer, or your tablet. It invades our leisure time. For example, we snowmobile instead of ski. We take the escalator at the mall instead of the stairs.

It All Adds Up

If you do the math, you can see why eating too much has a greater impact. It’s hard to make up those lost calories. And if that weren’t enough, then we have all these food and beverage choices. Advertisers and manufacturers are only too willing to remind us about their tasty products. But there is an easy solution.

The Pomodoro technique can help you ramp up your calorie burn. The technique involves 25-minute intervals of focused work with short 3-minute breaks in between. The work can be anything such as a project on the job, time on the couch watching your favorite shows, or gaming. After 25 minutes, get up and walk around.

Just like with the inactivity, everything adds up with the active time. The extra 100 calories you burn walking around is the 100 calories that won’t contribute to weight gain. Give it a try. You have nothing to lose but the calories. Chris DR

photo credit: Oola at Rest via photopin (license)