On the Table

Take a stand, walk around at work, eat lighter in new year

December 25, 2012 

As you think about health resolutions for 2013, plan to pair more physical activity with better eating habits.

That includes on the job, where more people are trading traditional office desks for a style that lets them stand and move while they work. The idea is gaining support in workplaces everywhere as more evidence links sedentary jobs with greater health hazards than previously thought.

Even as the year draws to a close, new research findings published in Europe show that sitting for long periods of time is associated with decreases in blood sugar metabolism and HDL, or good cholesterol. Those changes are linked with higher risks of coronary artery disease and Type 2 diabetes.

The risks are higher even for people who are physically active when they’re not at work.

Of course, when you sit, you also burn fewer calories. Years of sitting at work – compounded by hours in front of the TV or computer at home afterwards – can account for substantial extra pounds over time.

Stand-up desks come in a variety of styles and prices. Some include electric desktops that can be raised or lowered as needed. Others are simple floor stands or desktop risers that can elevate a computer monitor and keyboard or laptop computer.

It makes good health sense to look for ways to flip your work style so that more of the day is spent on your feet instead of your bottom. In fact, it may be vital to your health to figure out a way to make it happen.

It won’t be enough to solve your weight problem, though.

As important as it is to be more physically active, it’s still critical to eat less, too. Think of it this way: One carrot walnut muffin at Panera contains 430 calories; a Big Mac at McDonalds contains 550 calories.

It would take a 150-pound person walking at a moderate pace about two hours to burn off the muffin, and that long plus another half-hour to burn the burger. Even if you paced much of the workday, you would likely find it impossible to compensate for a diet rich in high-calorie foods and deficient in lower calorie fruits and vegetables.

Make it a top priority to work more physical activity into your life along with better eating habits – all day, every day – in the year ahead.

Suzanne Havala Hobbs is a licensed, registered dietitian and clinical associate professor in the Departments of Health Policy and Management and Nutrition in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. Send questions and comments to suzanne@onthetable.net and follow her on Twitter, @suzannehobbs.

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