Wednesday, November 21, 2012


The cover feature of The Straits Times supplement 'Mind Your Body' (Nov 15) is a timely reminder for all of us to get off our butt every couple of hours or so. Now that we know sitting too much can kill us, we have no excuse not to do something about it. And I am the first to admit guilt. There are days when I walk, and walk and walk, because I don't drive anymore. But there are also days when I sit, and sit AND sit.

We spend most of our waking hours sitting - at work, in front of the TV or computer, in the car/train/bus, at the dinner table, and chatting with friends. We sit for hours at meetings, seminars, and in waiting rooms. At shopping malls or waiting for someone, we look for a place to sit.

Children these days are becoming obese and at risk of the same health problems that we adults face. They sit just as much as we do. They sit in school, at tuition classes, and when they come home, they sit at the table for meals and later to do their homework. On weekends, they are glued to their digital gadgets which means more hours of sitting, Changes in lifestyle and the preference for sedentary hobbies have drastically reduced the time adults and children spend on physical activities. 

November issue of Diabetologia
Data from a recent study published in Diabetologia, the journal of the European Association of the Study of Diabetes showed that people who scored highest on sedentary time were found to be more prone to diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. The study involved 800,000 people, so the findings cannot be dismissed so easily.

Sitting for hours on end every day can also lead to deep vein thrombosis and a predisposition to blood clots. This makes sense as inactive muscles prevent smooth blood circulation to the legs and more seriously, to the heart. From my own observation, inactivity among older people often leads to stiff joints, and increases lower back pain.

While I don't profess to be an exercise addict, I do try to put in some physical activity on a daily basis. Not having a car helps as I have no choice but to walk whenever I can. Living in a walk-up apartment means I have to take the stairs every day. Exercise is forced upon me, whether I like it or not. A good thing I like it.

Note 'even with exercise'! Time to step up or suffer the consequences.  

Here's how I keep on the move:
  • I walk to the neighborhood mall 12 minutes away to run errands and buy provisions. 
  • I walk home carrying bags of groceries to strengthen my arm muscles.
  • I walk to the bus stop to catch the bus downtown, and repeat the process in reverse when I come home.
  • I walk up three flights of stairs at least twice a day.
  • I walk up the escalator rather than stand still on it.
  • I walk at least 8000 steps a day according to my pedometer, sometimes more than 10,000 steps.
BUT I can be a couch potato when there are good programs back to back on the telly. AND I can easily chalk up 4-5 hours of sitting when I am at the computer. That's really bad, so now my hourl timer buzzer alerts me to get up and move about.

My work desk at home. Photo taken in February this year. I have since added a timer with
the buzzer set to go off hourly to remind me to get off my butt and move around.

The study warns that even with exercise, people who sit for hours at a stretch can still be at risk of all the health problems mentioned above. I take it as a warning that I should double or triple my standing and moving hours.

Here's a video with a call to action. EXERCISE! It's not that we don't know the benefits of exercising. It's the lack of discipline, the will power to sustain an exercise regime. The video was first posted on this blog in February with the article "Walking to Better Health and Longevity".

Happy exercising!

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