Diabetes Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs)

Sitting may be killing us, say experts

Written by Laura Watermeyer

Not getting enough exercise is about as bad for you as smoking, say experts who add that squeezing in more physical activity can be as simple as twirling your hair.

Many of us spend our time doing the same thing – sitting down. An inactive, sedentary lifestyle has been linked to increased risks of diabetes, heart disease and death in adults.

According to Dr Tracy Kolbe-Alexander who works at University of Cape Town’s exercise science and sports medicine unit, a lack of physical activity shortens your life almost as much as smoking.

She also warns that sitting for six hours a day takes at least four years off your life. In fact, every hour of television watched after you reach the age of 25 reduces your life expectancy by 20 minutes.

The 2003 South African Demographic and Health Survey shows that nearly half of all men aged 25 to 34 years old and 60 percent of women in the same age category said they were physically inactive.

Traditional wisdom recommends 30 minutes a day to dramatically reduce risk of death and disease, but research has now shown it may be just as important to work in short bouts of activity throughout your day.

This doesn’t have to mean doing a 50m sprint down the corridor at work. Rather, you could opt for NEAT, or non-exercise activity thermogenesis.

Proposed by endocrinologist Dr. James Levine from the US not-for-profit Mayo Clinic, NEAT includes activities like walking in the mall, playing guitar or taking a bathroom break.

Even thought NEAT doesn’t fit our traditional definitions of exercise, it turns out that the body doesn’t care too much what you do as long as you aren’t sitting.

NEAT might even help you lose weight. Fidgeting, like tapping your feet, twirling your hair or gesturing while speaking, can burn 350 calories a day.

For other ways to increase your NEAT, try standing to burn more calories or drinking water. Drinking water not only keeps you hydrated but it also increases the need for bathroom breaks that can turn into short, brisk walks.

Simply put, any movement is better for you than sitting still. – Health-e News Service

About the author

Laura Watermeyer

Laura Watermeyer is a print/website intern at Health-e