The world is experiencing an unprecedented, life-altering challenge due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many persons are still adjusting to this new reality. While it is hard to predict exactly when this COVID-19 pandemic will subside, the world has been grappling with another pandemic for years: Sedentary lifestyle, Physical Inactivity (PI) and what the scientific community coined as the “Sitting Disease”.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 31% of individuals 15 years or older are physically inactive and approximately 3.2 million deaths per year are attributed to this unhealthy lifestyle behaviour.

The financial burden of Physical Inactivity

Physical Inactivity was defined as a pandemic in 2012, and leading organisations have recognised this crisis. Additionally, in 2013, it was estimated by a John Hopkins study, that Physical Inactivity cost healthcare systems around the world $53.8 billion dollars.

Sadly, if action is not taken by us now, individually and as a community, the PI pandemic will persist long after we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic: both the health and economic impacts of the PI pandemic will continue to be severe.

The Sitting Disease

What do we mean when we refer to sitting disease? The “sitting disease,” or a sedentary lifestyle is a term used to describe individuals who engage in prolonged periods of sitting (more than eight hours/day cumulatively) or overall inactivity. While sitting down all day may seem harmless, you may be surprised by the negative impact it has on your health.

Adverse effects include increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels, thereby increasing the risk for type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, deep vein thrombosis and certain cancers (breast and colon); were all found to be associated with the sitting disease.

An analysis of 13 studies of sitting time and activity levels found that those who sat for more than eight hours a day with no physical activity had a risk of dying similar to the risks of dying posed by obesity and smoking.

The Motivation to Move

It is evident that less sitting and more moving overall will contribute to better health!

Tracking your steps with a fitness tracker, your phone or a simple pedometer is beneficial. The recommended target by the American Heart Association is 10,000 steps a day. But if you are sedentary, and this is a difficult daily goal, any improvement will be beneficial. If you normally get 2,000 steps a day, try to aim for 4,000 and increase consistently as you become more active.

Rule of Thumb:

For every 30 minutes of sitting, try to stand for eight minutes and move around for two minutes.

How to Increase Movements Every Day:

1. Walking up/down the stairs instead of taking the elevator.

2. If you work at a desk for extensive hours, try a standing desk, or improvise with a high table or counter.

3. Integrate a treadmill desk or a bike desk into your work-from-home office.

4. Walking around while talking on the phone if space allows.

5. Limiting the amount of time you spend sitting and watching television.

Impact of Movement

Health risks caused by sedentarism and the dangers of sitting can be prevented simply by moving more during the day. The impact of movement, even leisurely movement can be profound. For starters, you will burn more calories. This will lead to weight loss and increased energy.

Physical activity adds more than just burning calories, it adds years to your life and improves your mental wellbeing. Take baby steps. It doesn’t have to be vigorous. Just stand up and move your muscles!