Tanzania: Sedentary Life Is Not Healthy, Walk for Your Fitness

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HAD an exhausting day? Think you deserve to kick back and relax? You might want to think again.

If you're like most people nationwide, you've spent more than half of your waking hours sitting or being inactive for long stretches of time at work, at school, in the car or watching TV, maybe it's time to try standing up instead of putting your feet up.

It has been estimated that the groups who sit the most are teens and older adults. The question being, what's so bad about sitting? Sedentary behaviour which usually means sitting or lying down while awake has been linked to a shorter lifespan and a wide range of medical problems.

Studies have found that any time you get up and move, you're improving your chances for good health. Note that some of us are sort of forced into sedentary lifestyles by our jobs, by school or by commuting.

Breaking up our sedentary time with even short bouts of activity like getting up from your desk and moving around is associated with smaller waist circumference and other indictors of good health.

When you're upright and active, even briefly, your body is at work since you are engaging a wide range of systems in your body when you move throughout your day and your muscles are contracting, you're maintaining your balance as well as resisting the force of gravity.

When you're sitting, your muscle contractions go way down and your body's resistance to gravity decreases. Therefore, understand that when you sit for long periods, your body adapts to the reduced physical demand and slows down its metabolism.

And when metabolism slows, fewer calories are burned and increase the chance that extra energy will be stored as fat. The best way to raise your metabolism is simply by moving. The more you move the better your chances are of burning extra fat.

Understand that leisuretime, physical activity is also linked to a longer life expectancy and regardless of how much you weigh, even a low level of physical activity equivalent to about 10 minutes a day of walking has a positive outcome.

There are many benefits of moderate to vigorous activity like getting your heart pumping and boosting of blood levels of "good" cholesterol. Moving at moderate to vigorous intensity also strengthens your bones and muscles and lessens your risk for a wide range of health problems, including stroke, diabetes and certain types of cancer, osteoporosis and arthritis.

That's why it is recommended that adults should aim to exercise at least 2 and half hours a week at moderate intensity or 75 minutes a week at a vigorous level. You might exercise at moderate intensity for 30 minutes, 5 days a week, or try 45 to 60 minutes, 3 days a week.

If your goal is to exercise for a half an hour a day, you might break that up into shorter periods (of at least 10 minutes at a time) that add up to 30 minutes.

Although the benefits of intense activity are clear, less is known about the long-term impact of sedentary behaviour and since most people engage in a range of activities throughout each day, it can be challenging to tell apart the effects that sitting and non-exercise activity can have over time.

It has to be understood also that extended periods of sitting might take a toll on your lifespan even if you exercise since those who were exercising a lot 7 or more hours per week had an elevated risk for death from all causes or from cardiovascular disease if they also watched a large amount of TV (more than 7 hours per day.

So a substantial amount of exercise may not always protect against the adverse effects of prolonged sitting. Sedentary behaviour is not simply the opposite of physical activity since it's not as if you're either sitting or doing nothing or you're physically active.

There's a gray zone that includes light activity such as standing up, casual walking or grocery shopping. You can alter your routine just a little bit every day so you'll move more and sit less. Don't use the phone or email if you can take a walk and talk to someone in person.

Get yourself a step-counter and try to get in 10,000 steps a day since there are many ways to add movement without going to the gym. Some wise choices of Sit Less, Move More slogan include; Taking the stairs instead of the elevator as well as parking your car at the far end of the street or parking lot to give you an ample time to move.

Think also of having "walking meetings" with colleagues at work instead of enclosed meetings. Other wise choices include rearranging your home so you can stand upright or walk on a treadmill while watching TV or using the computer as well as setting an alarm on your computer to go off every hour and prompt you to move around for a minute or 2.

Other extra helpful tips include trying walking as if you're already late for the bus or an important meeting since it will enable you to exercise your muscles and also have small weights in your office or around your home for doing arm exercises.

Understand that exercise improves your chances of living longer, protects against illness and disease, relieves symptoms of depression and anxiety, prevents weight gain and/or promotes weight loss, and improves sleep hygiene among others while a sedentary lifestyle contributes to the opposite increasing the chances of being overweight and developing a number of diseases or medical issues.

The bottom line therefore is, look for opportunities to be active throughout your day. Get moving as much as you can!

Racheal Masibo, Assistant Lecturer at St John's University of Tanzania (SJUT)-School of Nursing, reachable via 0717513598 or Email:rackelmasibo@yahoo. com" rackelmasibo@yahoo.com

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