According to a study published by PLOS One in 2013, participants in a Quebec medical study gained 0.13 centimeters of waist circumference for every additional 15 minutes they were sedentary. Think about that; every minute of increased sitting time directly adds to the fat in your middle. Worst of all, even if you engage in regular exercise, your sedentary job could still be adding to your belly fat.
No One is Immune
A sedentary job affects everyone, whether or not you consider yourself active. Exercise is great for your body, but it won't counteract the deleterious effects of sitting all day afterward. The negative cellular effects of sitting are not affected by exercise. Even if you participate in the Center's for Disease Control and Prevention's minimum requirement of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week, sitting for hours at a time at your desk starts a harmful chain reaction that your exercise cannot prevent that causes increased belly fat, among other dangerous effects.
Lipoprotein lipase (LPL) is an enzyme in your body that is responsible for breaking down fat in your bloodstream to use as energy. When LPL levels drop, you're storing fat instead of using it. In a Louisiana study conducted by Dr. Marc Hamilton, it was discovered that mice who were forced to sit most of the day had LPL enzymes that were 10 times less active than when standing most of the time. That means if you're sitting all day, you are 10 times more likely to store up those fat reserves instead of burning them. Even if you exercise once a day, sitting down for the rest of it slows this enzyme down and causes you to get fatter.
Sitting for long periods of time slows down your metabolism, according to a 2010 Australian study. Your body basically shuts down. Like a bear hibernating, your inactivity retards your ability to lose weight. This partially explains why a study from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington discovered that people who start a sedentary job gain an average 16 pounds within the first eight months. Just getting up to stretch once every 20 minutes can be enough to reverse these negative effects.
Get Off Your Duff
Sedentary weight gain is still being investigated, but doctors have suggestions for exercises and stretches that can help undo the damage of your sedentary job. Doing a few total-body exercises for 10 minutes twice a day to break up your sitting hours can have a big effect, according to UCLA School of Public Health researcher Toni Yancey. Just little changes can make a big difference. Take a walk with a coworker instead of sitting in an office for a meeting, take all phone calls standing up and use the stairs instead of the elevator. If you do, you can lose weight and live longer.
- PLOS One: Sedentary Behaviour, Visceral Fat Accumulation and Cardiometabolic Risk in Adults: A 6-Year Longitudinal Study from the Quebec Family Study
- NBC News: Why Your Desk Job is Slowly Killing You
- National Safety Council: Take a Stand: Researchers Target Sedentary Behavior in the Workplace
- US National Library of Medicine: Too Much Sitting: The Population-Health Science of Sedentary Behavior
- The Washington Post: Health: Researchers Prescribe Easy Office Workouts
Meredith Berg received her B.F.A. in directing from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. Now living in Los Angeles, she works as a film and television writer, comic-book editor and director of plays and films. In addition, she loves tackling paleo recipes, workout routines and DIY projects.