Are you among the world’s 1.4 bn inactive adults?

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Sabrina Almeida

More than 25% of adults (1.4bn) in the world have a sedentary lifestyle according to a recent World Health Organization (WHO) study. Don’t take inactivity lightly, the WHO warns, because it increases your risk of cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, dementia and cancers. Some healthcare professionals add anxiety and depression to that deadly list.

If that news does not galvanize us into action, little will.

Neither Canada nor India were red flagged in that report that said around 40% of Americans and 36% in Britain did too little exercise. However, that is no reason to sit back and binge watch your favourite serial on Netflix instead of taking a walk or jog around the neighbourhood. Sitting at a desk all day and then on the couch at home is extremely harmful to health. A study based on a Canadian Community Health Survey, Public Health Agency of Canada study and Statistics Canada research referred to sitting as becoming the “new smoking.”

A Mayo Clinic report published earlier this year also said that individuals who sat for more than 8 hours a day and had no physical activity carried the same mortality risks associated with obesity and smoking. An analysis of data from more than a million people found that 60 to 75 minutes of moderately intense physical activity “a day” (not week) could counter this. Just reading this makes me tired and less inclined.

The recent WHO study supported these findings while proposing that the transition to sedentary jobs (meaning those that involved mostly sitting) was probably the reason for the low levels of physical activity in developed countries like ours. It found that inactivity was twice as much when compared to poorer regions where people were more active at work and didn’t have their own transport. In fact, it increased by 5 per cent in richer countries from 2001 to 2016.

Looking back on my days of commuting by train and bus in Mumbai, I can only nod vigorously (and get in some movement) in agreement. Since the train station and bus stop were around 5 minutes from my home, I often walked for 30 to 45 minutes from where I got off to my workplace to get some exercise. Thirty years ago, gyms were few and meagre salaries didn’t support their high fees. They were also largely for men. With physical activity being restricted to school, after you graduated opportunities were little or none.

Poor community facilities can be blamed for our lack of interest as well as the absence of physical exercise in our lives. And we have carried this philosophy with us here. Worse still bequeathed it to our children. (Their overuse of electronic devices doesn’t help.) An unhealthy diet adds to our woes. Most Canadians of Indian-origin that I know have diabetes and cardiovascular disease as a result. Not to mention grossly overweight kids. Now cancer is on the rise both in the Indian community here as well as in the home country.

Here in Canada, lack of physical activity comes from poor health habits not the absence of facilities or opportunity. All the exercise equipment in my basement bought more than 2 years ago looks as good as new because it is rarely used.

What’s more we are not the only ones. Most friends also have unused equipment which they purchased in December or January, which is when everyone is in “resolution” mode. My husband and I did discuss this before buying the equipment especially since we had just thrown away a treadmill that probably broke down from lack of use. However, we managed to convince each other otherwise and bought two exercise machines as a replacement.

Any feeble attempts we have made at establishing a daily exercise regime barely lasted a few weeks. But we talk about going down to the exercise room daily and have set up a television set there as encouragement. However, I think that we look for the smallest reason not to do so—kids, home and office work being the most convenient excuses. And in my experience once you fall off the wagon, it’s near impossible to get back on. It took us a year to resume exercise after a week’s trip to the US last summer.

Now that the weather is favourable, we try and go for a daily walk. As in the past years, the plan is to head downstairs once the cold weather arrives. We’ll see.

Hopefully the alarming news of a physically active and seemingly healthy friend having a double bypass will shock us into action.

Perhaps its our approach that is all wrong. Physical exercise goes beyond weight control and disease management. It relieves stress, improves memory, helps you sleep better, and boosts overall mood. Moreover, one does not have to be a fitness fanatic to reap the benefits. So, why not start today! -CINEWS

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