We’ve all heard the negative consequences of a sedentary lifestyle (and if you haven’t, they include obesity, type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and early death), but most of us still spend way too much time sitting down—and have the not-so-flat belly to prove it. In fact, Physical Activity Council report showed that the percent of Americans who participated in high-calorie-burning activities reached an all-time low (with only 29.7 percent participating) in 2017. Scientists are still trying to figure out exactly why sitting is so detrimental to health, but one explanation is that the less we move, the less fuel we require. So, when our eating habits remain the same, there is a surplus of blood sugar that floods the bloodstream and contributes to diabetes and other weight-related risks. Whether you’re forced to sit for extended periods of time because of your 9-to-5 or you’re just flat-out lazy, a sedentary lifestyle can be one of the things holding you back from your body goals. But it doesn’t have to be—because you can actually burn calories while sitting!
While your job, TV habits, or school-work may impede some of your activity, there are steps you can take to whittle your middle and maintain your health—even while you’re pushing your tush into the cushion. By adopting healthy habits that stimulate your metabolism, boost calorie burn, and stave off overeating, you can still lose weight while you sit. And even though these tips can help you stick to your weight-loss efforts, remember that exercise still plays a role in maintaining good health, so be sure to incorporate a fitness routine on top of your seated plan. If you choose not to use this advice, your all-day sitting routine is just one of the bad habits that lead to a fat belly.
Turn Down the Heat
Shiver your timbers! Because your body uses energy to keep you warm, turning down the thermostat may be able to help you burn more calories and attack belly fat stores. That is, according to a study in Diabetes, which found that colder temperatures subtly enhance the effectiveness of our stores of brown fat. Participants who slept a month at 66 degrees almost doubled their volumes of brown fat and improved insulin sensitivity, whereas a subsequent month at 81 degrees undid these metabolic enhancements and even decreased brown fat stores. Why is this important? Brown fat, unlike the more common white adipose, is metabolically active in that it keeps you warm by helping you burn through the fat stored in your belly—which means you can actually burn calories while sitting.
Replace Your Chair
If you’re looking to burn calories while sitting, and tone up in the process, invest in a stability ball. Swapping out your desk chair for a stability ball will help you strengthen your core, back, and legs and burn more calories at the same time. According to Jill Koegel, RD, a sports-certified registered dietitian, replacing your chair to sit on one of these sports balls can help you burn an extra 100 calories a day. If you work 300 days in a year, that could add up to melting away 8.5 pounds! And if you don’t want to fully commit, just opt for this stimulating alternative an hour per day.
Guzzle Down Glasses
Keeping water nearby at all times is one of our top 10 rules you must follow every day to lose 10 pounds. And luckily, you don’t even need to stand up to do it! Because water is essential to hundreds of metabolic processes, keeping your body hydrated ensures your body is functioning at its optimal levels and boosts your energy. In fact, a small study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that drinking just over 2 cups of water actually increased the metabolic rate of participants by 30 percent—in just 30 minutes!
While this study was fairly small, other studies have also found water may help with weight loss by decreasing consumption. A study in Obesity discovered that people who drank 2 glasses of water before meals consume up to 90 fewer calories over the course of a meal than they would have otherwise. This may simply be because water is filling, but researchers note the added H2O may also displace calories typically spent on high-energy beverages.
Set Healthy Reminders
Don’t go at it alone! A study published in Health Promotion Practice uncovered that those who received weekly text reminders of their daily “calorie budget” and motivational emails made healthier snack and meal choices throughout the week. If you’d like, you can take matters into your own hands and set up labeled alarms on your phone to go off throughout the day. That way, when 3 p.m. rolls around, you see: “Great job, today! Reward yourself with a fruity snack!” And if you sit next to another dieting coworker, team up to hold each other accountable. After all, a PLoS One review found that people tend to conform to “eating norms” in social settings. Having another health-minded coworker can be useful when free-donut-Fridays roll around.
Nab a Caffeine Booster
We know it’s tempting to guzzle down a diet soda to get over that mid-afternoon slump—but don’t do it! A University of Texas Health Science Center study found that adults who drank diet soda experienced a whopping 70 percent increase in weight circumference compared to non-soda drinkers. Instead, grab a low-cal cup of black coffee, or better yet, some green tea. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found teas—including green teas—contain certain antioxidants known as catechins that boost fat oxidation. Tea is so powerful for weight loss and general health that made it part of our bestselling new diet plan, The 7-Day Flat-Belly Tea Cleanse! Test panelists lost more than 4 inches from their waists!
Squeeze In Tiny Tone-Ups
Just because you’re sitting down doesn’t mean you have to be sedentary. Light stretches throughout the day can relax muscles while burning a few extra calories. Try crossing your arm across your body and pulling it closer with your other arm, and switch. Reach up toward the sky and lean over on both sides. You can also tone up your leg muscles while sitting. Squeeze a ball between your thighs, knees, or calves. Do front-inside-outside toe taps, calf raises, and toe raises.
The Boy and Girl Scouts know best: always be prepared. And that’s certainly the case when it comes to snacks. The US. Department of Agriculture found that about two-thirds of adults snack at least twice a day. So, by keeping healthy snacks on hand—rather than indulging in gut-busting candy bars from the vending machine or break room at work—you’ll ensure you can stick to your diet. Better yet, choosing the right snacks which help you feel full (like nuts, greek yogurt, and hummus) can stave off overeating and keep your energy levels consistent. When you do start to munch, sit somewhere other than in front of the computer while you continue to work; multitasking when eating can disrupt satiety cues from reaching your brain in time.
Grab your headphones and listen to some tunes. Numerous studies have shown that listening to relaxing music can decrease the production of cortisol, a hormone responsible for stress, carbohydrate cravings, and fat-storage. Can’t listen to music while you work? No problem; just throw on some ambient soft, slow jazz during your break. A study published in Psychological Reports found that soft music leads diners to eat less and enjoy their food more. Just be sure you can still hear your munching! Other studies have found that loud music or television that blocks your sense of hearing can also prevent satiety cues telling your body you’ve had your fill. In fact, this mistake is one of the reasons you’re always hungry.
Plan Out Your Day
Pull up a chair and start brainstorming. Write down your to-do list for the next day, plan out an entire week’s worth of meals, or write in your food journal. Taking a little time (even while you sit) to plan ahead will ensure you stay on top of your diet and will alleviate any stresses that come with last-minute dinner decisions. Added stress not only causes weight gain by increasing levels of the fat-storage hormone, cortisol, but it also leaves room for you to make unhealthy food choices when you’re under a time crunch.
Sit Up Straight
You know your mind can affect your body, but did you know your body also can affect your mind? You might not feel confident, but if you partake in certain “power poses” like sitting up straight in your chair, psychologists like Harvard professor, Amy Cuddy, believe you can actually boost your mood, which may decrease levels of the stress-inducing and fat-storing hormone, cortisol. Plus, sitting up straight with your shoulder back and your abs tight—compared to slouching at your desk—requires engaging more muscles and can burn a few more calories.
Laugh A Little
Pull up a clip of your favorite comedian and your gut-busting laughter may actually help bust your gut. A study published in the International Journal of Obesity found that a genuine belly laugh may cause a 10 to 20 percent increase in basal metabolic rate—which translates to a staggering 40- to 170-calorie burn for every 10- to 15-minute laugh-a-thon! Pair this trick with sprinkling a little cayenne pepper on your food to double down on metabolism boosters.
Feeling overwhelmed? A few deep breaths can help you calm down—and shed a few. According to The Nutrition Twins, Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, CDN, CFT and Tammy Lakatos Shames, RDN, CDN, CFT, deep breathing exercises can “stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which brings on relaxation and reduces stress. This will also reduce your stress hormone cortisol, which is associated with belly fat, sugar cravings and decreased lean muscle tissue; this is really important because the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn.” So simple, and you don’t have an excuse to not try it! (Everyone’s gotta breathe, right?)
Read a Book
Listen up, bookworms! Your brain-boosting habit can help keep your weight-loss goals on track! Not only does reading help you relax and decrease stress, dietitian Julieanna Hever, MS, RD, CPT, explains that, “Using your brain requires energy and reading burns almost twice as many calories as sleeping!”
Who knew cord-cutters were onto something bigger than just saving money. Streaming services like Netflix offer ways to view television without commercials—which means you won’t be subjected to 30-second spots of a rotating, juicy Big Mac. And that’s good news for your waistline as a meta-analyses published in the journal Obesity Reviews uncovered a staggering connection between food advertising and food consumption; Researchers found that exposure to these ads acts as a “food cue,” which increases cravings, and contributes to eating behavior (even if your body isn’t physically hungry) and weight gain. Still using cable? DVR your favorite shows so you can fast forward through commercials to avoid temptation—or try one of these easy hacks to stop thinking about food.
Play a Video Game
When you start to feel a craving come on, seek out a distraction instead of indulging. Cravings typically only last about ten minutes, so keeping your mind occupied for that long can save you thousands of calories and subsequent pounds in the long run. While we’d typically recommend going for a walk, because these are the best tricks to burn calories while sitting, we’ll offer up the alternative: playing video games. Research has found that getting in touch with your competitive gaming nature can stimulate the brain’s reward system and reduce the desire to eat.
Keep Fruit In Sight
While it’s smart to keep fruit on hand so you have smart snacking options, there’s another—more surprising—reason: studies have shown that smelling fresh fruits, like apples, bananas, and pears, can curb appetite and make sugary desserts less appealing. Scientists suggest this is because the produce makes you subconsciously think about making healthier choices and can consequently help you break bad eating habits.
A simple choice in the morning can have profound results throughout the day. Choose to wear jeans and even though you’ll be sitting at your desk, you’ll be more likely to walk throughout the day. University of Wisconsin researchers found that people who wore casual clothing to work burned 25 more calories than they did when they wore more formal attire. That translates to almost two pounds lost in a year! Feeling comfy and blasting away belly fat? Sign us up!
We typically try not to recommend chewing gum since it can bloat you, but chewing gum during the workday may have some benefits that are worth it. Besides giving you minty-fresh breath (which often helps decrease cravings), a study published in Physiology & Behavior also found that gum-chewers were more alert and experienced reduced anxiety, stress, and salivary cortisol—a stress hormone that increases the number of and volume of fat cells—especially those found in the belly.
Keep Sweets Out of Sight
Just as important as keeping healthy foods at hand is keeping diet-derailing picks out of sight. A study published in the Journal of Marketing found that people are more likely to overeat small treats from transparent packages than from opaque ones. So, store that donut you grabbed from the break room this morning in your drawer.
Stick to Lunchtime
We get that work sometimes gets in the way, but don’t let it throw your eating patterns completely off track. Set an alarm to eat lunch before 3 p.m. every day. Why? An International Journal of Obesity study found that obese women who ate their lunch after 3 p.m. lost an astounding 25 percent less weight than those who ate their lunch earlier in the day. The fact that the early-bird diners lost five pounds more is even more shocking when you consider that both groups ate the same foods and the same amount of calories. Scientists believe that pushing out lunch until you’re starving may spark cravings for more food later in the day.
Sneak In A Nap
Sit down all the way and take a snooze! That’s right, you can sleep your way to a slimmer you. Getting enough quality sleep is crucial for healthy weight loss: sleep allows your body to repair and rebuild fat-fighting lean muscles as well as maintains proper regulation of hunger-regulating hormones. Without it, researchers have found levels of your satiety hormone, leptin, decrease, leaving you hungry and hangry. In fact, a University of Chicago Medical Center study found sub-par sleep could undermine weight loss by as much as 55 percent!