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Burn extra calories without 'exercising'

This person is modeling the special clothing the participants wore beneath their normal clothes. This Physical Activity Monitoring System (PAMS) includes six sets of posture and movement sensors. You can see sensors attached to the sides of the thighs, to the low back and below the arm pits. Every 24 hours, study staff removed the sensors while the subject showered for 15 minutes. Image Science.
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It's no secret that physical activity and eating a balanced diet are important for maintaining your weight at a healthy level. So what counts as physical activity? Swimming, running and playing most sports are obvious examples. But what about activities that don't seem like exercise? Is walking to school physical activity? What about washing the dishes? Mowing the lawn? Going grocery shopping? Standing at the bus stop? Training your dog? Cleaning your room?

A new study shows that the amount of time you spend moving around (but not officially exercising) may be important for maintaining your weight. To keep your weight steady, the amount of calories you consume roughly equals the number of calories you burn. This is knows as "energy balance."

James Levine and his colleagues at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota report that "non-exercise" activities that involve standing and walking are an important way to burn calories and maintain your energy balance. They also say that your tendency to walk more and sit less might be related to your biological make up.

The researchers continuously measured the amount of time 20 "couch potatoes" spent walking, sitting, standing and lying down for 10 days. Half the people were lean and the other half were mildly obese. Everyone had jobs that kept them sitting for much of the working day.

The scientists found that the lean people stood and moved around about two hours longer each day than the obese people.

Next, the scientists helped the lean people gain weight be overfeeding them. They also helped the obese people lose weight. They repeated the experiment to see if the lean people would move around less after gaining weight or if the obese people would move around more after losing weight.

The study participants maintained their original movement habits after they gained or lost weight.

Even if you're one of those people who naturally tend to sit more and move less, you can consciously add more movement to your, Levine said. He thinks modern societies as a whole should dance more and watch less television. He also suggests walking instead of driving whenever it's safe to do so. This research, and a related "Perspective" article, appears in the 28 January, 2005 issue of the journal Science.


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