Exercise For Diabetes

Inefficiency is NEAT

If you are as efficient as I am, you might be in trouble. I know I am.

Why would anyone want to be anything but as efficient as possible? With all the things that we have to do every day there is no way that we could get them all done unless we managed them with time-saving strategies.

Unfortunately, we can be too efficient for our own good. We can take care of everything out there except for our own bodies.

We may forget that the routines of daily life are a way that we use energy, just like walking, swimming and lifting weights. It’s only when we use more energy than we take in that we lose weight.

You might think, as I once did, that apparently dumb things like fidgiting, tapping your foot and forgetting to do our chores in as few steps as possible are a simple waste of effort. But Dr. James Levine, a Mayo Clinic endocrinologist and nutritionist, calls this nonexercise activity thermogenesis or NEAT.

The article by Dr. Levine and his associates, “Interindividual Variation in Posture Allocation: Possible Role in Human Obesity,” appears in the January 28, 2005, issue of Science magazine. But much more interesting than this technical report was his talk with Denise Grady of The New York Times.

“People with obesity are tremendously efficient,” Dr. Levine told her. “Any opportunity not to waste energy, they take. If you think about it that way, it all makes sense. As soon as they have an opportunity to sit down and not waste those calories, they do.”

That was me in spades. Before reading this, I prided myself on not wasting effort. I am now going to try to be physically inefficient, but it’s not easy.

The doctor practices what he preaches. The study’s findings inspired him to redesign his office. He mounted his computer over a treadmill, and while he works he is walking at the rate of 0.7 miles per hour.

‘I converted a completely sedentary job to a mobile one,’ he said. He says that he actually enjoys working at his computer now.

There’s no way that I can put my desktop computer on my treadmill. But a new laptop would certainly fit. Using the treadmill while reading my email and checking new websites sound like such an efficient way to work that I am seriously considering it. It’s OK to be efficient while exercising, isn’t it?

This article is based on an earlier version of my article published by HealthCentral.

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