Did you know, there is a single, very simple resolution that you can make this year that will improve your health? It doesn’t need a vision board. It doesn’t need breaking down into chunks to be achievable. It won’t take up any of your time and it doesn’t require sweaty selfies on social media to prove you’re doing it. What is it?
Yes, the simple act of sitting less and moving more, in your day to day life will have a huge effect on your health this year.
19% of men and 26% of women in England are classed as ‘physically inactive’ which means that they do less than 30 minutes of moderate activity a week. In the Health Survey for England the average time spent sitting (on weekdays) was 4.9 hours for men and 4.7 hours for women. At the weekend, men were being sedentary for an average of 5.4 hours and women for 5.1 hours. So, women are less sedentary then men (just) and as a nation we’re moving less at the weekend than we are during the week.
Physical inactivity is responsible for 1 in 6 deaths in the UK (the same number as smoking) and up to 40% of many long term conditions, so we need to address this … urgently. If you’re interested you can read more about this and Public Health England’s approach to tackling the problem here.
But what if you sit all day at work and then stop off for a gym class on the way home? What if you do parkrun on a Saturday before making yourself comfy on the sofa for a weekend of Netflix? Surely that’s ok because you’ve done the exercise bit? Errr, well, sorry but no, it doesn’t work like that.
There are risks associated with your sedentary behaviour that can’t simply be negated by a thirty minute exercise binge. This is why the Chief Medical Officer’s guidelines on physical activity have, ‘Sit Less’ as one of its recommendations in addition to, ‘Be Active’.
So what does this mean for all of us and our resolutions?
There’s no rocket science about this. Our bodies were designed to move. Our internal batteries will get crusted up if we don’t use the charge they’re constantly producing. Our metabolism will switch into storage mode and we’ll gain fat. Quite simply, we’ll be less healthy and increase our risk of major health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
All you have to do is MOVE MORE. It’s simple. Break up your sitting time. Just two minutes of moving around every thirty minutes will give you benefit. Go to the upstairs toilet during the ad breaks. Put your printer on the other side of the room at work. Go and speak to a colleague instead of sending an email. Stand instead of sit on the train or bus and get off a stop early. Park your car at the far side of the supermarket car park. Consider a standing desk. We’re all supposed to drink more water so here’s a reason to visit the tap; you’ll need the toilet more frequently too! Meet a friend for a walk instead of a sit-down coffee. Set an alarm on your watch, phone or computer screen to remind you to move, it’s easy to forget.
You’ll suddenly realise how much you sit but also how easy it is to reduce that behaviour. Gradually it will become a habit. And to those of you with young kids who are laughing reading this and are longing for the chance to sit down (I know how that feels), well, take some solace from the fact that your children are actually making you healthy – although it may not feel like it at the time!
So, just make this one change in your day to day life, this year and every year to come. By sitting less and moving more you’ll be heading for a healthier you without a vision board or sweaty selfie in sight!
Image credits: Gratisography