I like to move it, move it!

Picture credit: DreamWorks Animation

A whole cascade of positive metabolic effects are activated within two minutes of getting up from your desk and onto your feet

When ring-tailed lemur King Julien XIII and his animal friends danced to the catchy tune ‘I Like to Move it, Move it' in the animated family favourite Madagascar, little did we know he was relaying a serious message to white collar workers and students.

In recent years, physiologists have found that sedentary workers (those who work sitting down most of the day) need to regularly ‘move it' to avoid serious medical complications.

According to experts, moving about – even for five minutes every hour – significantly reduces your chances of succumbing to obesity, heart disease and diabetes, not to mention cancer.

"You increase your metabolic rate between 10 and 20 per cent above the resting rate simply by getting up off your bottom - not walking anywhere - but simply standing up,'' says Dr James Levine, professor of medicine with the famous Mayo Clinic in the United States.

And Dr Levine found a whole cascade of positive metabolic effects are activated within two minutes of getting up from your desk and onto your feet. That cascade involves activation of the insulin receptor and the fat-absorbing enzyme called lipase. Standing up engages muscles and promotes the distribution of lipase, which prompts the body to process fat and cholesterol, independent of the amount of time spent exercising. He also found it uses blood glucose and may discourage the development of diabetes.

All these positive effects are deactivated within several minutes of sitting down again, causing the body to shut down the circulation of the fat-absorbing enzyme.

Levine was well-known for his research on obesity and lack of activity and was a pioneer in the creation of the alternative workstation, Walkstation, a treadmill desk that you exercise at while you work. He also published a study showing that lean people burn about 350 more calories a day than overweight people, by pacing, fidgeting or walking around the office.

But it's not just Levine and other health gurus that trumpet the benefits of standing up and moving it. A booklet recently published by Australian health care provider Medibank Private, called Stand up Australia, recommends that employers consider their employees' sitting down time as a workplace health and safety hazard. The booklet recommended auditing levels of sitting among staff and "exploring opportunities to reduce sitting in the workplace."

So, here are some suggestions for moving it more in your workplace, home or home office, while still putting in a fair day's work or a good night's study:

  • Deliver messages or have discussions with work colleagues in person instead of texting or emailing
  • Put your computer on a plastic milk crate on the desk and work standing up, or request an adjustable desk
  • Set your computer to remind you to stand up and do five minutes of exercise every hour – perhaps your whole office could do it together
  • Work sitting on a fit ball instead of a chair so you engage your leg and midriff muscles. If you don't use the right muscles you'll fall off.
  • Get a glass of water every hour from a water fountain not in your room
  • Stand up and talk when the phone rings
  • Think of more ways to add physical activity to your lunch breaks and leisure time.
  • Look at physical household or office chores as an opportunity to exercise and prevent disease
  • Reduce after work TV viewing, or do something active while watching TV or movies
  • Use the workplace bathroom down a flight of stairs, not next door
  • When meeting with someone, suggest you walk and talk, instead of sitting in their office.
  • Even if you reduce sitting by five minutes an hour, at the end of a long day, you've shaved an hour off your total sitting time. Of course, formal exercise you do at the gym, in the pool, on the field or with the kids after work will lead to a healthier and happier you.

    So, what are you waiting for, don't sit there wallowing in it. Turn up the speakers, get up from your desk and MOVE IT, MOVE IT!