Bad news for couch potatoes: Sitting less sustains weight loss

You’ve been hearing it for years now: sitting is the new smoking. We’ve written extensively about how a sedentary lifestyle can lead to heart disease, diabetes, obesity and worse. And as far as obesity is concerned, sitting around too much definitely makes it more difficult — though not impossible — to lose weight.

Given our busy modern lifestyles, it can be tough to get as much exercise as needed to make the scale budge. That’s why some weight-loss plans take lack of activity into account to make it easier for people to stick with the program.

However, let’s say you’ve managed to lose weight, maybe with little or no exercise, and of course you want to keep it off. Researchers are finding that sedentary lifestyle habits may end up sabotaging your progress in the long run…

Sit less, keep the weight off

According to a recent study, those who have succeeded in maintaining their weight loss spend less time sitting both during the week and on weekends than weight-stable people with obesity.

The study, published in The Obesity Society’s flagship journal Obesity, is the first to examine the time weight-loss maintainers spend in various sitting activities.

The study recruited weight-loss maintainers from WW (formerly Weight Watchers) who were able to maintain 24.7 kg or 54 lbs. of weight loss on average for 3.3 years and had an average current BMI of 27.6 kg/m2 or 60.8 lbs/m2. The average BMI of the group of weight-stable obese participants was 38.9 kg/m2 or 85.8 lbs/m2.

According to the study, weight-loss maintainers spent three hours less per day sitting during the week (10.9 hours versus 13.9 hours) and on weekends (9.7 hours versus 12.6 hours). The maintainers also spent one hour less per day in non-work-related sitting while using a computer or playing a video game on both weekdays and weekends. Both groups had roughly the same number of television sets and other devices that promote sitting in their homes.

One of the most dramatic differences was in calories expended per week in physical activity: 1,835 for the weight maintainers, compared with only 785 for the weight-stable obese group. Weight maintainers also consumed 290 fewer calories per day than the obese group (1,492 versus 1,782).

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The study clearly shows the association between physical activity and improved weight-loss maintenance, but to keep the weight off, it’s not as simple as merely standing…

“These findings are important for understanding behaviors that may enhance weight loss maintenance, and one of those may be to reduce sitting time and other modes of sedentary behavior. However, this study also showed that physical activity was associated with improved weight-loss maintenance. Thus, this study does not imply that simply standing more rather than sitting will contribute to weight-loss maintenance, but may suggest that less sitting that results in more movement is what is key to weight loss maintenance. Hence, sit less and move more,” said John M. Jakicic, Ph.D., FACSM, FTOS, Distinguished Professor, and Director of the Healthy Lifestyle Institute and the Physical Activity and Weight Management Research Center at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania. Jakicic was not associated with the research.

Slipping more movement into your days

As we’ve noted in previous issues, there are plenty of tricks even the busiest among us can use to sneak more exercise into our day-to-day lives. Here are a few tips to get you out of your chair and moving:

Pick a far-out parking spot. Whether you’re going to work or going shopping, try parking your car as far away from the door as you can to add to your daily step count.

Take the stairs. If you live or work in a building with stairs, use them instead of the elevator. For even more exercise, try visiting a breakroom or bathroom on a different floor from yours.

Tweak your chores. Things like house cleaning, snow shoveling, gardening and using a push mower to mow the lawn can all help keep you active. Also, instead of automatically taking the car every time you have an errand to run, try walking or biking to your destination.

Make TV time movement time. If you have a stationary bike or treadmill, use it while you watch your TV programs. If not, then try doing a quick round of push-ups, crunches or yoga poses during ads (or between episodes if you’re streaming commercial-free).

Take your book for a walk. If you enjoy reading, take the time you would usually spend on your sofa with a good novel and go for a walk with the audiobook version.

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Sources:

Weight-loss maintainers sit less than weight-stable people with obesity — EurekAlert!

Sitting Time, Type, and Context Among Long-Term Weight-Loss Maintainers — Obesity

Carolyn Gretton

By Carolyn Gretton

Carolyn Gretton is a freelance writer based in New Haven, CT who specializes in all aspects of health and wellness and is passionate about discovering the latest health breakthroughs and sharing them with others. She has worked with a wide range of companies in the alternative health space and has written for online and print publications like Dow Jones Newswires and the Philadelphia Inquirer.