NEAT, otherwise know as non-exercise activity thermogenesis is the amount of energy expended performing all daily tasks aside from sleeping, eating or sport-like/structured exercise. Seemingly insignificant daily movement/tasks can have a cumulative effect that greatly increase your metabolic rate and net daily NEAT.
Sitting for extended periods of time, regardless of daily exercise habits, has a direct and negative impact on our health. And while using a standing or treadmill desk is a great option for many, we all know standing cockpits are not going to be approved by the FAA any time soon!
Exercise is often thought of as an all or nothing event but this is simply not the case and is especially important for flight crews to understand. A short brisk walk on a layover or delay can be a great starting point if you are new to exercise and provides great benefits if you are a seasoned athlete. Something seemingly insignificant can do wonders not only for your health but your mental function: An imperative aspect for any flight crew member.
So, what role does sitting have on your metabolism and health? Well, the negative effects of sitting extends beyond muscle imbalance and inefficient neurological wiring, even for those of you that work out for an hour or more each day. Infact, *Sitting is becoming known as the new smoking, even for athletes!
Dr. James Levine, coined the term “sitting is the new smoking” and goes on to say that we are sitting ourselves to death. “Much research has shown that sitting increases the risk of developing several serious illnesses like various types of cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.” These conditions can lead to a loss of your medical certificate.
Sitting is a cue for the body to relax, resulting in less blood and oxygen being pumped throughout the body and the brain, causing physical and even worse, mental fatigue. Sitting for a mere 30 minutes can reduce your metabolism by up to 90% and more than two hours can reduce your “good” cholesterol (HDL) by up to 20%.
Now that I have made my case…how can you easily counter some of the effect of sitting by sneaking more NEAT into your hectic and busy schedule at work?
Activity Breaks: Activity breaks are one of the best ways in which you can mitigate your risk. Interrupt sedentary time whenever possible! See example below for ideas.
At the Airport:
On breaks between flights, walk the terminal. Use the furthest bathroom or coffee shop, invest in a head set and walk or pace while catching up with loved ones on the phone.
Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator.
While waiting in line at the airport or before a flight, stand on one leg or slowly shift your weight back and forth.
Every time you lift your food cooler or suitcase do a few biceps curls and every time you stand from an extended period of sitting, squeeze your butt 10 times.
When reaching down to pick something up off of the ground, squat down using your legs and engage your core. When standing from a seated position, don’t use momentum or push with your arms to get you up. Instead, drive through your heels, pull in your belly button to engage your core and squeeze your butt to stand.
On the Plane:
While seated (commuting, deadheading etc.) do a few seated exercises and stretches to relax tight muscles and get the blood flowing through the body (For specific exercises visit our Seated Exercises Course).
Fidgit. Fidgeters on average burn 300-350 more calories than non fidgeters! Tap your feet, change your posture or sitting position or even do heel raises while sitting. You can do this by keeping your toes on the ground and lifting your heels, engaging your calf muscles.
At the Hotel/Between duty periods:
Wait until everyone has arrived at the hotel van before taking a seat and help load the suitcases if you’re feeling sporty.
Upon arrival at the hotel, take a walk down to check out the gym and fill your water bottle from the fountain.
Upon entering your room, immediately do 5 pushups and 10 squats (every time).
If you are in a good neighborhood, choose a place outside the hotel to meet the crew after the days flights.
Stand on the bus/tram from the parking garage to the airport or your crashpad.