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Sitting and fattening

Sitting for extended periods of time changes the body’s metabolism* in two subtle ways:

  • Fat in food does not stay in the blood vessels that pass through the muscles where it can be burned off, but instead it deposits in adipose tissue, a type of connective tissue that contains stored cellular fat and is found around organs such as the kidneys and just under the skin (where it is called 'subcutaneous fat' or 'adiposae tissue')
  • Exercise is good at burning off fat in muscle, but not good at burning it off in adipose tissue

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The activity of an enzyme in the body called lipase is suppressed by 90%. Lipase is essential to the body’s ability to break down fat. Suppressing lipase activity also appears to increase levels of high-density lipoprotein (LDL -’bad cholesterol’) in the body and reduce metabolism further

According to associate professor Marc Hamilton at the Department of Biomedical Sciences in the University of Missouri-Columbia (US), all we need to do is recognise that frequent low-level activity is as, indeed probably much more, important to maintaining a healthy metabolism as high-level exercise. Making small movements while sitting is not sufficient, but bringing in the heavy leg muscles by simply standing up and waking around for a few minutes every hour will keep that lipase cracking along burning up calories.

“To hold a body … upright takes a fair amount of energy from muscles,” Marc says. “Just standing, walking and doing chores represents “a large amount of energy … that cannot be easily compensated for by 30-60 minutes at the gym.”

Defintions
Metabolism - the set of life-sustaining chemical transformations that occurs within the cells of living organisms, allowing them to grow, reproduce, maintain their structures, and respond to their environments.

Editorial

This, of course, includes digesting food.

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References

(13974) Hamilton,MT et al. Diabetes 2007;56(11):2655-67