World Health Organisation estimates that almost 85 per cent of the world’s people are leading a sedentary life. This means they are not doing enough physical activity and spend most of their time sitting. Such a lifestyle has serious negative consequences. About 3 million deaths annually could be attributed to such a lifestyle. However, many of us are unaware, and that’s why WHO marks this as one of the most inadequately addressed global public health issues.
Buy why is the sedentary lifestyle increasing? This is one of the side effects of modernisation. With the advances in technology, manual work is diminishing for humans. Excessive usage of digital devices, e.g., television, cell phones, laptops etc., is also responsible. In countries like ours, spending a long time sitting in traffic congestion can be another cause.
Lack of adequate physical activity may result in increased blood cholesterol. Sitting for a prolonged period gives rise to repetitive neck and back pain. Obesity is another common result of sedentary life.
A sedentary lifestyle may increase the risk of death almost by 50 per cent compared to non-sedentary people. This was found in a Korean study which showed that such a risk is independent of factors like smoking and age. A sedentary lifestyle also doubles the risk of many diseases, including but not limited to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, various cancers, high blood pressure, osteoporosis and poor mental health.
Researchers from the University of Texas found that sitting for more than 10 hours a day significantly increases the risk of heart disease. Stroke risks are also almost 75 per cent higher than in non-sedentary people.
Sedentary life may also raise the possibility of a poor outcome. For example, Dr Erin Michos, a cardiologist at Johns Hopkins University, cited a 2015 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine to point out that even if we adjust to daily physical activity, sitting for a long time without any movement worsens outcomes for heart problems, diabetes and cancer.
So what should we do? Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, a former Director General of the World Health Organization, emphasised cultivating healthy lifestyle choices from childhood, including regular exercise and a nutritious diet. For others, WHO suggests at least 30 minutes to 2 hours of daily exercise, coupled with smoking cessation and a balanced diet. A weekly exercise routine should also have room for at least 75 minutes of intense activity.
Doctors recommend that individuals get at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity each week. Another two hours of moderate-intensity exercise should be included in the daily routine. Another effective suggestion is that, for every 20 minutes of sitting, we should stand up for at least 8 minutes and try to move around for another 2. Utilising modern technologies like smartwatches or apps to calculate our steps is also advisable. The target should be 10000 steps every day. However, we should target that goal with a gradual approach.