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Case study: how sitting all day can affect weight loss

It was March 2006 and I was meeting up with my first ever personal training client, writes Andrew Leighton.

She was about to undergo her second assessment so we could track her health changes since starting her fitness programme. Her goal was to reduce her body weight.

We had been meeting once a week to develop her strength so she could do more exercise over time and, coupled with a sensible managed diet, we were aiming for some weight loss. She also did three 45-minute exercise circuits by herself each week as a way to ramp up her energy expenditure.

As a trainer I was really excited to see her results because I knew how hard she had been working.

The assessment began but our initial excitement soon ended. There had been no change in the stats since we started. To make matters worse she had been strict with her diet and her circuit training. Gutted, I felt I had let her down and she was disappointed that she hadn't hit her goal. I knew we had to change something.

Later that day I went to visit my parents and my mother was complaining of back pain from sitting down in her office chair all day. That's when the penny dropped.

Here's a calculation for you

Remembering there are 168 hours in a week, my client's average activity during a working week looked something like this:

 Active: 2.5 hours

  • 1 hour personal training session
  • 1 hour and 30 minutes worth of circuit session

Sedentary: 131 hours

  • 50 hours in office chair
  • 10 hours commuting by train
  • 21 hours watching TV at night
  • 8 hours of favourite weekend past-time reading books
  • 42 hours sleeping

Miscellaneous: 34.5 hours

  • Combination of both active and sedentary activities

So we can safely say most of the time my client was sitting down.

We kept the existing programme going because it was helping to make her stronger and she enjoyed it. She also kept up her controlled diet but together we focused on putting more short bursts of of exercise into her day. The question she asked herself was: "What can I do right now to be active rather than sedentary?"

Some of her choices were:

  • Stairs versus lift
  • Walk versus car
  • Make myself a cup of tea versus somebody else doing it
  • Talk to somebody in person versus call or email  
  • Jump off the bus a stop early versus taking the bus to the destination

She said it turned into a bit of a game, battling the 'sedentary monster' and gaining power points from her healthier choices.

By building more activity into every aspect of her day, she went onto lose 10kgs over six months. She also became a great fitness and health ambassador for her family and friends.

If you want to build short bursts of physical activity into your day, stair climbing is perfect. It burns more calories than jogging and stairs are everywhere.

By sticking up  StepJockey Smart Signs in your workplace or organisation, you’ll also be encouraging others to do the same. 

Andrew Leighton is a qualified fitness instructor.

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