Video: Sitting all day ‘literally killing us,’ says obesity expert

updated 1/10/2013 4:46:04 PM ET 2013-01-10T21:46:04

Dr. James Levine, who treats obesity at the Mayo Clinic, says that the hours we spend sitting at work are toxic to our health.

“As soon as a person sits down for a prolonged period of time, the metabolic engines go to sleep,” Levine told NBC News’ Natalie Morales.

The shifts from rural life to the industrial revolution to the car and computer revolutions all conspired to make us walk less and sit more.

“I mean it is inconceivable that we were ever going to be a group, a population, a species sitting on our bottoms all day long.  We’re just not meant to do that.  So is it a surprise that the consequences are devastating? No,” Levine said.

Below are 10 tips devised by Levine and his team to help break up the time spent sitting at work. You can also find more information by clicking here.

Workplace exercises: How to burn calories at work

You may spend your workdays at a desk, but you don't need to take it sitting down. Make workplace exercises — from fitness breaks to walking meetings — part of your routine.

By Mayo Clinic staff

If you're doing your best to set aside time for physical activity either before work or after work, good for you — but finding time to exercise can be a challenge for anyone who has a busy schedule. Why not work out while you're at work? Consider 10 ways to make workplace exercises part of your routine.

No. 1: Make the most of your commute

Walk or bike to work. If you ride the bus or the subway, get off a few blocks early or at an earlier stop than usual and walk the rest of the way. If you drive to work, park at the far end of the parking lot — or park in the lot for a nearby building. In your building, take the stairs rather than the elevator.

No. 2: Look for opportunities to stand

You'll burn more calories standing than sitting.  Stand while talking on the phone. Better yet, try a standing desk — or improvise with a high table or counter. Eat lunch standing up. Trade instant messaging and phone calls for walks to other desks or offices.

No. 3: Take fitness breaks

Rather than hanging out in the lounge with coffee or a snack, take a brisk walk or do some gentle stretching. For example, face straight ahead, then lower your chin to your chest. Or, while standing, grab one of your ankles — or your pant leg — and bring it up toward your buttock. Hold each stretch for 15 to 30 seconds.

No. 4: Trade your office chair for a fitness ball

Consider trading your desk chair for a firmly inflated fitness or stability ball, as long as you're able to safely balance on the ball. You'll improve your balance and tone your core muscles while sitting at your desk. You can even use the fitness ball for wall squats or other workplace exercises during the day.

No. 5: Keep fitness equipment in your work area

Store resistance bands — stretchy cords or tubes that offer weight-like resistance when you pull on them — or small hand weights in a desk drawer or cabinet. Do arm curls between meetings or tasks.

No. 6: Get social

Organize a lunchtime walking group. You might be surrounded by people who are ready to lace up their walking shoes — and hold each other accountable for regular exercise. Enjoy the camaraderie, and offer encouragement to one another when the going gets tough.

No. 7: Conduct meetings on the go

When it's practical, schedule walking meetings or walking brainstorming sessions. Do laps inside your building or, if the weather cooperates, take your walking meetings outdoors.

No. 8: Pick up the pace

If your job involves walking, do it faster. The more you walk and the quicker your pace, the greater the benefits.

No. 9: If you travel for work, plan ahead

If you're stuck in an airport waiting for a plane, grab your bags and take a brisk walk. Choose a hotel that has fitness facilities — such as treadmills, weight machines or a pool — or bring your equipment with you. Jump-ropes and resistance bands are easy to sneak into a suitcase. Of course, you can do jumping jacks, crunches and other simple exercises without any equipment at all.

No. 10: Try a treadmill desk

If you're ready to take workplace exercise to the next level, consider a more focused walk-and-work approach. If you can safely and comfortably position your work surface above a treadmill — with a computer screen on a stand, a keyboard on a table or a specialized treadmill-ready vertical desk — you might be able to walk while you work. In fact, Mayo Clinic researchers estimate that overweight office workers who replace sitting computer time with walking computer time by two to three hours a day could lose 44 to 66 pounds (20 to 30 kilograms) in a year. The pace doesn't need to be brisk, nor do you need to break a sweat. The faster you walk, however, the more calories you'll burn.

Want more ideas for workplace exercises? Schedule a walking meeting to brainstorm ideas with your supervisors or co-workers. Remember, any physical activity counts!

For more information on the Mayo Clinic, click here.