Don’t just sit there

Not seeing too much Ashtanga-related this week, so we’ll head into the weekend with a little more science.

This time, it’s a doctor offering us some sobering news: sitting is killing us. Here’s more:

We lose two hours of life for every hour we sit, writes Levine, director of the Mayo Clinic-Arizona State University Obesity Solutions Initiative and inventor of the treadmill desk. Sitting all day is not natural and to blame for all kinds of ailments, including obesity, he says.

“We have created for ourselves a modern way of living that clashes with the way we’re meant to be,” he writes.

So the obvious answer is to move more, by, for example, taking walks after meals, something Levine writes that he does after every meal.


The science turns on the study of NEAT, or nonexercise activity thermogenesis, the energy expenditure of activity other than sports. It includes dancing, going to work, shoveling snow and taking a walk, Levine writes. So you can imagine a construction worker uses a lot more NEAT calories than a computer programmer in the course of a workday.

“Low NEAT is linked to weight gain, diabetes, heart attacks and cancer,” Levine writes.

In an experiment in which people were overfed by the same amount – 1,000 calories a day – Levine and his colleagues found that some people had a “powerful NEAT switch” that gets them moving to use excess energy.

“Those people who do not have a NEAT switch remain sitting in response to overfeeding and are predisposed to obesity,” he writes.

This caught my eye at the LA Times, I’m sure, because my job has be computer bound. A few of our fellow Yatris, for instance, seemed a bit shocked by my sedentary, eight-hour-a-day job. Yoga teacher, for instance, probably could compete with construction worker for the burning of NEAT calories.

But not all of us have jobs that allow that. And this doctor suggests that 60 to 90 minutes of Ashtanga in the morning may not be enough. (Not to mention you maybe ought to have five minutes of high-energy exercise.)

Is this starting to feel contradictory or competing at all? Is it five minutes of strenuous exercise? Is it about not sitting? What’s the secret?

Well, don’t sit without getting up all day. Don’t forget to do your yoga. (Remember, all this is focused very much on health and physical fitness; we don’t seem to be thinking about other factors much.) Maybe kick up that heart rate a bit more.

And, certainly, don’t eat 1,000 calories a day more than you need.

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

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