It is known that regular exercises, necessary as they are, are only a partial
answer to the accumulative harm from long-time sitting. I feel horrible getting
up from the chair after sitting two or three hours straight which is usual for
a programmer. The first few steps, my feet and especially the right foot would
go through an adjustment. The legs would need two or three seconds to get
back in gear. Aging must play a role here because I never remembered needing
to ramp up for simply getting up to walk when I was young. Sadly, running
eight miles in the morning seems irrelevant.
So I was very happy to read the article "160 Seconds a Day Keep the Doctor
Away!" by Fabio Zonin, a master strength instructor at StrongFirst.
After gaining 18 lbs, mostly from sitting in front of a desk during Covid
shutdown, Zonin discovered the concept of NEAT or Non-Exercise Activity
Thermogenesis and found an effective way to fight back. Inspired by a university research work, he replaced the four-second sprint in the experiements with 4x3
single-arm kettlebell swings on the top of each hour. He and his friends did
this eight times a day and reported fat loss and improved mental sharpness
throughout the day.
Zonin's account was mostly anecdotal but to me, aside from the credentials of
StrongFirst, the method just felt right. The hourly interrupts to sitting
intuitively make up for the loss of NEAT. With the 40kg Onnit kettlebell, I
jumped in with both feet. It was a bit heavy for this but I didn't have a 36kg.
Since the actual swing time was only about 20 seconds (three swings took me
five secs), the protocol was easy to follow.
For the past few weeks, my weight was easily kept under 150 lbs although I was
eating more and gaining strength from training twice a week with the 48kg. As
for mental focus and sense of well-being, the regular four-minute explosive
swings felt like an hourly reset. I came back to the desk refreshed and feeling
something vital and primal renewed.
The concept of NEAT is important and it has felt like a revelation. It has been
there all the time. Without a handle, however, it is hard to keep it in sight,
let alone to effectively compensate for the lack of it. I felt blessed to make the discovery. Hallelujah!