A device that allows you to continuously move your legs while sitting at a desk may boost metabolic rate more than standing at a workstation, according to a study. The study by researchers at University of Illinois at Chicago in the US adds to the growing body of evidence that suggests strategies for increasing non-exercise active thermogenesis are needed to help overcome the detrimental effects of prolonged sitting. Earlier research suggested that sitting could be a risk factor for early mortality, independent of the presence of a disease, such as cancer or diabetes.
Thermogenesis is a spontaneous activity unrelated to a fitness routine. Sitting has been identified as a risk factor for early mortality, independent of the presence of a disease, such as cancer or diabetes. Up to seven per cent of deaths have been attributed to sitting alone. “Sitting is bad for our health, but it is a big part of daily life for many people,” said Craig Horswill from the University of Illinois at Chicago.
“Exercise is a good way to counteract the negative effects of sitting, but just incorporating physical activity into one part of our day may not be enough to overcome the damage caused by prolonged sitting and an otherwise sedentary lifestyle,” said Horswill, senior author of the study published in the journal WORK.
The researchers compared the metabolic rate produced by three workstations: seated at a desk, seated at a desk equipped with a device that stimulates leg movement and standing at a desk. The device, which is commercially available, was a movable footrest, suspended from the underside of the desk, which enabled the feet to swing, twist or teeter.
Participants in the study familiarised themselves with the workstations during one visit. On a second visit, researchers collected metabolic rate and heart rate data during three progressive stages: seated, seated with the device and standing. Each stage was 15 minutes. They found that modest movement while seated elevated the metabolic rate more than sitting and more than standing, by 17 and seven per cent respectively, and had no detrimental effect on cognitive function.
“These results suggest that non-exercise active thermogenesis, which we call NEAT, can increase movement and calorie burning, and may have the potential to impact health,” said Horswill. “We expected to see the metabolic rate increase with each progressive stage, but instead found that metabolic rates from movement while seated were either equal to or higher than rates while standing,” Horswill said.