Congress, Jeremy Morris and NEAT

Recently returned from the 3rd International Congress on Physical Activity and Public Health in Toronto. It was a great conference. I spent some quality time with old friends and learned a lot. I’m already looking forward to the next conference in Sydney!

A few highlights of the 2010 edition:

1) George Davey Smith‘s talk entitled “Social Epidemiology at the Forefront of Public Health: In Celebration of the 100th Birthday of Jeremy Morris” celebrated the life of Dr. Jeremy Morris. For those who don’t know Dr. Morris was one of the first researchers to show that physical activity was good for health. He did so by comparing coronary thrombosis between drivers (i.e., sedentary) and conductors (i.e., active) on London’s double-decker buses. Click here for the paper. Dr. Morris did not live see his 100th birthday but was celebrated at the conference and in this NY times article.

For me, the best part of the talk by Dr. Davey Smith and work by Dr. Morris was the insights provided for designing and conducting novel and useful experiments. These ‘novel’ experiments often strike a cord with research communities and general public. The bookOpening Skinner’s Box: Great Psychological Experiments of the Twentieth Century” by Lauren Slater is another great inspiration for conducting novel experiments. Now I just need to come up with one. 

2) NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogensis). Dr. James Levine gave a great keynote about NEAT during the conference banquet. Basically, NEAT is all the energy that we expend from being awake and moving around, but not necessarily while exercising. For example, I am burning small amounts of energy while I type. The idea is that we should all spend more time doing little things can help expend energy. Standing instead of sitting is a big first step. 

Here’s an abstract from the British Journal of Sports Medicine 2007;41:558-561

The energy expenditure of using a “walk-and-work” desk for office workers with obesity  
James A Levine & Jennifer M Miller 

Objective: For many people, most of the working day is spent sitting in front of a computer screen. Approaches for obesity treatment and prevention are being sought to increase workplace physical activity because low levels of physical activity are associated with obesity. Our hypothesis was that a vertical workstation that allows an obese individual to work while walking would be associated with significant and substantial increases in energy expenditure over seated work. 
Methods: The vertical workstation is a workstation that allows an office worker to use a standard personal computer while walking on a treadmill at a self-selected velocity. 15 sedentary individuals with obesity (14 women, one man; 43 (7.5) years, 86 (9.6) kg; body mass index 32 (2.6) kg/m2) underwent measurements of energy expenditure at rest, seated working in an office chair, standing and while walking at a self-selected speed using the vertical workstation. Body composition was measured using dual x ray absorptiometry. 
Results: The mean (SD) energy expenditure while seated at work in an office chair was 72 (10) kcal/h, whereas the energy expenditure while walking and working at a self-selected velocity of 1.1 (0.4) mph was 191 (29) kcal/h. The mean (SD) increase in energy expenditure for walking-and-working over sitting was 119 (25) kcal/h. 
Conclusions: If sitting computer-time were replaced by walking-and-working, energy expenditure could increase by 100 kcal/h. Thus, if obese individuals were to replace time spent sitting at the computer with walking computer time by 2–3 h/day, and if other components of energy balance were constant, a weight loss of 20–30 kg/year could occur. 

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