Prolonged sitting can be deadly, experts warn
Despite the abundance of information available on sedentary living, an increasing number of Nigerians find themselves part of the growing population that spends most of their time sitting or lying down.
Whether it’s due to the nature of their work or personal circumstances, many individuals face the challenge of prolonged sitting as they struggle to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Take, for example, Mrs. Kemi Awosika, also known as Iya Femi. She runs a successful fabric business on Lagos Island, where she spends the majority of her day seated, attending to customers and managing sales. After two decades of this routine, she has noticed a significant weight gain but continues to receive praise from friends and admirers.
Another case worth considering is Mr. Jimmy Johnson, a highly successful estate executive. His demanding schedule involves back-to-back meetings with staff and clients, often extending into his personal time. He frequently brings work files home to review, leaving little room for personal relaxation.
But what exactly is a sedentary life? According to Wikipedia, a sedentary lifestyle is characterized by prolonged periods of sitting, reclining, or lying down with minimal energy expenditure. This behavior encompasses activities such as working at a desk, using electronic devices, and commuting.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines sedentary life as spending more than six hours a day engaged in such behaviors. MedlinePlus, a health information platform, concisely describes sedentary life as a lifestyle involving extensive sitting and lying down without regular exercise.
Alarming statistics reveal that people worldwide, including Nigeria, are increasingly engaging in sedentary activities. Whether it’s sitting at a desk job, using electronic devices, or commuting by car, bus, or train, the majority of us lead sedentary lives.
The consequences of a sedentary lifestyle are severe. WHO reports that physical inactivity is linked to approximately two million deaths each year. Sedentary living doubles the risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and obesity, while also increasing the likelihood of colon cancer, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, lipid disorders, depression, and anxiety.
Furthermore, WHO highlights that 60 to 85 percent of people worldwide, regardless of developed or developing countries, live sedentary lives, making it a serious yet inadequately addressed public health issue. Children are also affected, with an estimated two-thirds being insufficiently active, which poses significant health implications for their future.
Research conducted by the American Heart Association (AHA) reveals the detrimental effects of sitting. Sedentary jobs have increased by 83 percent since 1950, leading to various health problems. Prolonged sitting has been linked to heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, cancer, and an increased risk of premature death.
To combat the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle, experts recommend incorporating regular movement throughout the day. Simple actions such as standing up every 30 minutes, breaking up sitting time with light activity, and aiming for at least 10,000 steps a day can significantly improve overall health.
USA Veins Clinic advises against assuming that one hour of exercise counteracts prolonged sitting. Regardless of daily exercise habits, long periods of sitting still pose health risks. Inactivity raises the likelihood of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, osteoporosis, depression, anxiety, and even premature death.
To become more active, individuals can start by gradually increasing exercise and incorporating small activities into their daily routines. Activities such
as housework, gardening, and yard work can be more vigorous, lifting hand weights or doing gentle yoga stretches. Walking in the neighborhood, taking the stairs, and having walking or standing meetings in the office are effective ways to counteract sedentary behavior.
It is crucial to recognize the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle and take proactive steps to prevent sedentary disease. By embracing an active lifestyle, we can improve our overall health and well-being, reducing the risk of chronic diseases associated with prolonged sitting.