It’s cold. It’s dark. It’s winter, and that means cuddling up on the couch with a blanket and comfort food, right? Mmmm…, maybe not, and spring is just around the corner.
As tempting as the couch sounds over the gym on a cold winter’s morning, there is growing evidence to show that if you want to stay healthy, you need to stay active – regardless of the season. That’s because both physical inactivity and sedentary behaviour are considered independent risk factors in the development of chronic diseases. What this means is that even if you exercise regularly, when you spend the rest of the day sitting, your health could still be at risk.
New research has identified a simple way of mitigating this risk.
Chronic diseases, including high blood pressure and diabetes, are on a rapidly increasing upward trajectory in South Africa. In 2019, for example, 4.74 million South Africans were suffering from hypertension, making it the most prevalent chronic health condition in the country.
As with most health conditions, there are several factors at play. Genetics, age and gender are all important considerations, but can’t explain the steep increase in diagnoses. Something that can, however, is the gradual transition from our once active lifestyles to our now more sedentary ones. An influx of electronic devices, an increased amount of time spent at home, and increased accessibility to screen-based entertainment has resulted in prolonged sitting hours and excessive screen-based sedentary time, for both adults and children.
Researchers have linked sitting for long periods of time with several health concerns, including obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels. That’s because prolonged sitting triggers a series of unhealthy changes at the metabolic level.
So just how much time should you spend moving? A recent study has found that spending just one hour less sitting daily and increasing light physical activity can help lower your risk of developing chronic disease. And, if you already have a chronic disease, it can help you manage it better.
Skip the couch and movie marathon this winter, and proactively look for ways to increase your activity. Break up your day with regular movement breaks, get together with friends for a walk instead of a drink, ensure your dog gets her daily steps, use the bathroom that’s furthest away. Every minute that you’re not sitting counts, and any and every movement all adds up!
- Zhao R, Bu W, Chen Y, Chen X. The Dose-Response Associations of Sedentary Time with Chronic Diseases and the Risk for All-Cause Mortality Affected by Different Health Status: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. J Nutr Health Aging. 2020;24(1):63-70
- Tanja Sjöros, Saara Laine, Henri Vähä-Ypyä, Eliisa Löyttyniemi, Harri Sievänen, Noora Houttu, Kirsi Laitinen, Kari Kalliokoski, Tommi Vasankari, Juhani Knuuti, Ilkka Heinonen. Effects of reduced sedentary time on cardiometabolic health in adults with metabolic syndrome: A three-month randomized controlled trial. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. 7 April 2022