Photo by Craig Chitima on Unsplash
by Dr Reetu Verma and Bulbul Beri

Our lifestyle has dramatically changed over the past decade since the introduction of the first smart phone in 2007. The subsequent exponential progress in technology and social media boom has made life more convenient and provided many opportunities, but has also increased our sedentary lifestyle.

Why is inactivity bad for you?

We sit for longer than we ever did while working at our computers 7-9 hours daily and even while relaxing watching TV, playing video games/apps and catching up on social media. Often, we stay seated without getting up for hours at a time, which can contribute to bad posture, poor circulation, low energy levels, joint stiffness and neck, shoulder and back pain.

A twelve-a-day habit used to refer to cigarettes, but now more people can relate that to hours of sitting in a day. Sitting is the new smoking! Recent studies indicate that sitting too much and moving too little can be just as bad for your health as smoking, putting us at risk of obesity, heart disease and diabetes type 2 as too much sitting slows down the metabolism affecting the body’s ability to metabolise fat and regulate blood pressure and blood sugar.

Our bodies are designed to stand and move for long periods of time and our weight is automatically shifted while standing, preventing both the repetitive stress and muscle degeneration that is caused by sitting.

Simple ways to add more movement to your day

Apparently, exercising an hour a day doesn’t undo the negative effects of sitting 8 or more hours a day. Katy Bowman, scientist and author of Move Your DNA: Restore Your Health Through Natural Movement says in her book “You can’t offset 10 hours of stillness with one hour of exercise.”

Movement is the key. Taking regular breaks from long periods of sitting and getting up and moving, even leisurely movement is very important for your health and suppleness. This will increase your activity levels, and also activate your feel-good hormones leading to a healthy lifestyle and improved overall health and well-being.

Throughout your day, to add more movement, consider:

  • Pacing while on the phone.
  • Changing your posture regularly.
  • Setting an hourly timer reminding you to get up and walk.
  • Organising walking meetings
  • Planning more active social get-togethers
  • Stretching. One popular yoga exercise which is great for the back and spine that you can do as a quick break from sitting is the cat-cow pose.
  • Where possible walk or cycle all or part of your journey, and leave the car at home.
  • Use the stairs instead of the lift or escalator, or at least walk up the escalator.
  • Pick an exercise/ exercises that you enjoy and incorporate into your lifestyle, eg) dancing, yoga, martial arts, tennis, hiking

Experts say we should be moving at least 10,000 steps per day.

Fun Fact:

10,000 steps a day started back in the mid-1960’s in Japan. Dr Yoshiro Hatano invented the pedometer, or in Japanese called the ‘Manpo-kei’, which literally translates as, ‘10,000-step meter’.

So take a tip from King Julian from the Movie Madagascar and Move It!

References:

Internicola, D, “Walking is the superfood of fitness, experts say”, Retrieved 15.5.2021,

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-fitness-walking-idUSKCN0HO0PV20140929

Laskowski, E.R.,“What are the risks of sitting too much?”, Retrieved 15.5.2021,

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/expert-answers/sitting/faq-20058005#:~:text=An%20analysis%20of%2013%20studies,posed%20by%20obesity%20and%20smoking.

Better Health Channel, “The dangers of sitting: why sitting is the new smoking”, Retrieved 15.5.2021,

https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/the-dangers-of-sitting