Stand up to facts

Stand up to facts

Sedentary lifestyle

Stand up to facts

Visualise this — long hours of commuting, longer hours at the desktop; compound it with the tendency to stare at the mobile screen constantly – and that is a lot of sitting! Unfortunately, ‘sitting is the new smoking’ and is touted as a health risk factor.

With the ‘World Health Day’ here, it’s time to take a hard look at ‘sitting diseases’ like heart disease, diabetes, cancer and depression, apart from obesity. Come to think of it, in modern times, prolonged sitting is inevitable. In fact, one could be sitting more than sleeping! And that is the recipe for a shorter life span, point out heath experts. The key then is to keep moving — wherever you are!

“This is a serious lifestyle problem,” informs Dr Sudarshan Ballal, chairman of the Medical Advisory Board, and medical director of Manipal Hospitals. “One of the problems associated with prolonged sitting is obesity. The sad fact is that people seems to have lost interest in exercising completely and playgrounds are not being used by children. The more you sit, the less energy you expend and the more fat you gain,” he says.

“If you are watching TV, move around the room and do it. Don’t be a couch potato, be a moving potato. Take the stairs whenever you can,” he adds.

While sedentary habits have long term health consequences, smart phones are contributing to these immensely. “It’s important to talk to people, rather than to apps. I tell this to my children and youngsters whenever I can. Sometimes, you see young people in a group with each one on their phone. This also makes you a social recluse,” he says.

The ‘sitting’ threat highlights the importance of workplace ergonomics now more than ever. It is keeping this in mind that Manish Pole and partner Neetu Singh, yoga teachers, started ‘Totalyoga’ in 2010 — to take it beyond mats and to corporates.

“One is staring at a live source all the time (computer, television or mobile). It can have a hypnotic effect and you can’t stop for 3 to 4 hours. What we do is, we go to the bay area and ask the employees to keep their laptops away. At one time, we engage all the employees of a particular bay in an interactive 25-minute stretching and breathing session — the employees just have to turn off their monitors and participate in the desktop yoga.”

 Desktop yoga involves stretching the neck, shoulders, wrist, back and hamstrings. “Neck, because you are looking at the monitor in an unnatural way for hours together and shoulders, as all the work load goes on to the shoulder. You turn to hunch as there is less oxygen intake. Wrist, because the constant use of laptop and mouse could give you Carpal Tunnel Syndrome,” he explains.

The secret then is in that vital break or that walk around the room. Dr M Ramesh, a consultant bariatric surgeon with AV Hospitals and Vikram Hospitals, adds, “There is also a lot of mental stress these days, especially with desk jobs. That basically increases hunger. There is a tendency to eat more without any physical activity. The Indian Diabetes Society has come up with guidelines for a strict one hour of brisk walking for diabetics. Diabetes is controlled in people who regularly walk for one hour. But more than 90% of diabetics don’t go for walks,” he informs.

“It’s unfortunate that more and more young people are developing heart attacks and diabetes — at the cream of their life. They need to prioritise their health and keep their weight under control. They may be fine now, but 10 to 15 years later, the problems will start showing,” adds Dr Ramesh.

While time will tell how the adverse effects of prolonged sitting are taking shape, a disciplined lifestyle seems to be the only way out.

“Any kind of exercise is good. Walking anywhere, anytime is good. So is swimming and cardio exercises. Also, there is no need to be in front of your desktop constantly. You should take breaks in between. When I am seeing patients, I don’t see them continuously for 10 hours. I walk in between and take breaks,” says Dr Sudarshan.

“On ‘World Health Day’, I would like to say that one should bring back those good old habits of walking and personal interactions. And don’t forget to keep an eye on your calories,” he adds.

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