Stephen Hawking was spot-on when he said 'we eat too much and move too little' -- but the simplest way to fix it isn't working out

Gen Pepgen-pep.seStephen Hawking in a ‘Pep Talk’ ad campaign addressing the seriousness of obesity.

Stephen Hawking delivered a speech this week addressing the seriousness of obesity in an ad campaign to promote the work of the Swedish nonprofit GEN-PEP.

One of the most powerful parts of the speech (which you can watch in full below) is perhaps when Hawking says: “For what it’s worth, how being sedentary has been a major health problem is beyond my understanding.”

Hawking continues, “Today too many people die from complications related to overweight and obesity.”

Quite simply, he says, “We eat too much and move too little.”

When speaking about the solution, Hawking adds, “It’s not rocket science,” and recommends simply that people eat less and do more physical activity.

Hawking has the right idea, but it isn’t just about being more active. It’s also about being active at the right times.

Most people think that if they have a sedentary office job, so long as they work out regularly, they’re in the clear. But research suggests this isn’t true.

Instead, it’s best to move around for at least a couple of minutes every hour.

This could be a 10-minute walk to the coffee shop down the street, a 30-second stroll into the kitchen, or simply standing up and stretching at your desk (and while standing burns fewer calories per hour than walking, it still burns more than sitting).

No matter what activity you do, the important thing is that you break up long periods of sitting with movement. Still, if you’re looking to reap the most health benefits out of those few frenetic minutes, some activities are better than others.

Walking is best

If you’re a standing desk fan, great! As I mentioned earlier, standing still beats sitting as far as overall health goes. But if awkwardly towering over your co-workers while staring at a screen isn’t your thing, there’s good news: Walking is superior overall.

Woman walking through the park in the morningMatt Cardy/Getty ImagesBy waking up and throwing the blinds open or stepping outside we activate the body’s best alarm clock, the sun.

A large recent study, for example, surveyed thousands of American adults who’d agreed to wear movement trackers. Three years later, the researchers followed-up to see how their participants were doing. Some were healthy; some were ill; others had died prematurely.

In terms of this last outcome, the occasional light stroll appeared to have had a slightly protective effect: People who ambled around for roughly two minutes every hour had a 33% lower risk of dying prematurely than the people who’d stayed seated the whole time. (One caveat: Since the study was observational, meaning the researchers had no control over participants’ behaviour, we can’t say for sure that walking reduced the risk of dying, only that the two things are related.)

Plus, when it comes to burning calories (something that’s key for weight loss), walking leaves standing in the dust. One recent study, in fact, showed that people who walked — even at a fairly easy pace — burned up to three times as many calories than when they stood or sat.

After Hawking delivered his speech, the ad ended with three written statements: “Physical inactivity is now the world’s fourth leading cause of death,” “Required physical activity per day: Adults 30 minutes,” and “Required physical activity per day: Children 60 minutes.”

Watch the full ad:

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