Make a stand against chubbiness

This is a copy of a column I wrote for El Pueblo, the official publication of the All City Employees Benefits Service Association of Los Angeles. It contains some good info on health.


You eat healthy foods and you exercise regularly. But no matter how hard you try, you can’t lose those last 20 pounds. If you’re like most people, you find this frustrating.

Fortunately, there is something you can do about it.

According to a recently published report in the journal Diabetes, losing more weight means rethinking your entire approach to weight loss. Yes, food and exercise are very important, but there is a third element that most people miss.

Americans are awake for approximately 16 hours a day. Let’s say you spend half an hour a day exercising and another hour a day eating. That leaves 14.5 hours a day in which you’re not thinking about your health. You’re thinking about your job, your children, etc.

A research team at the University of Missouri has discovered that when we sit – and most of us spend most of our days sitting – the enzymes that are responsible for burning fat shut down. When you stand up and move around your enzymes begin burning fat again.

The missing ingredient to increased weight loss is simple. You need to get up and putter around as much as you can during the remaining 14.5 hours of your day.

Marc Hamilton, leader of the University of Missouri research team, said that moving your arms while typing on the computer does not burn fat. The big muscles in the human body that are critical for burning fat are located in the back and legs. These are the muscles you use when you stand up and move around. I call them your puttering core.

“To hold a body that weighs 170 pounds upright takes a fair amount of energy from muscles,” Hamilton said. “You can appreciate that our legs are big and strong because they must be used all the time. There is a large amount of energy associated with standing every day that can’t be easily compensated for by 30 to 60 minutes at the gym.

“Many activities like talking on the phone or watching a child’s ballgame can be done just as enjoyably upright, and you burn double the number of calories while you’re doing it.”

If you sit for long periods of time, you could try:

• Taking walks around the building or block
• Standing while you are talking on the phone
• Walking outside to make cell phone calls
• Drinking plenty of water, which will force you to get up for more water and, ahem, dispose of it
• Organizing that wastebasket basketball league you’ve been dreaming about

I used to work in an office in which the engineering team walked around the outside of the building for 15 to 20 minutes every afternoon. The engineers routinely worked 12-hour days, but they were mentally sharp and relatively healthy. Was it solely because of their afternoon walk? It was probably a number of factors. But the walk was good for their health and had the pleasant side effect of building camaraderie.

The research has spoken. We are a species of born putterers.

Joe Donatelli
Joe Donatelli is a writer in Los Angeles

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