Get up offa that thing!



The words of James Brown, the “Godfather of Soul”- are featured in a British  initiative   – “On your feet Britain” –  a national day (29 April 2016) on promoting less sitting and moving more.

“Physical inactivity is the 4th biggest killer – World Health Organisation

The three big “S’s” of today are  – smoking , sugar and – sitting too much! This is not a new concept (research has been around since 2008), but it’s always good to get reminders and especially in light of this upcoming national day in Britain to help raise awareness of the risks of sitting. For me, writing this was also prompted by a recent trip to London where the cold climate even reduced my motivation to get out and move and cosy days in with chai were warmly welcomed!

NOTE – this is not just about meeting the WHO guidelines for 30min activity 5 days per week- it is about sitting less (whether at home or at work). There is a difference. Both are important!

There is now substantial evidence from various global studies (inc. UK , US and Australia)  that a sedentary lifestyle is as risky as smoking. Sitting for more than 4 hours a day has health risks.

Getting people more active is the SINGLE biggest action we can take to reduce people’s risk of today’s major killers- namely, diabetes, heart disease, obesity and cancer as well as helping to reduce other conditions like back pain and depression.

From an evolutionary perspective, we were meant to move- it is just not natural for us to be sedentary! Yet another drawback to so-called modern living.

“It is almost like sort of owning a really cool sports car and letting it idle all day long. The engine gets gunked up. That’s what happens to our bodies. The body, as we know, simply isn’t built to sit all day.” – James Levine, Mayo Clinic.

British studies state that people spend an average of 8.9 hours sitting down and 7 hrs sleeping- that’s 2/3 of our time not doing very  much!

Studies have also found that– People who sit for more than 8 hours a day have DOUBLE the risk of heart disease than those who sit for less than 4 hours.  

“Physical inactivity is the main cause for 21-25 percent of colon and breast cancer, 27 percent of cases of diabetes, and up to 30 percent of cases of ischemic heart disease.” – World Health Organization (WHO)

 Another Australian study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine (2012) looked at TV hours and life expectancy and found “Compared with persons who watch no TV, those who spend a lifetime average of 6 h/day watching TV can expect to live 4.8 years less. On average, every single hour of TV viewed after the age of 25 reduces the viewer’s life expectancy by 21.8 min.” concluding that “TV viewing time may be associated with a loss of life that is comparable to other major chronic disease risk factors such as physical inactivity and obesity.”

As soon as we sit down…

 *after 90minutes, our metabolism decreases,

*lipoprotein lipase (enzyme that helps to  break down fat) activity reduces by 90%, 

*after  2 hours, HDL (“good” cholesterol) reduces by 20%,

*after 6h, blood pressure increases and

*after 24 hours, insulin effectiveness reduces by 24%– hence increasing the risk of metabolic syndrome, diabetes,  heart disease and cancer.

Dr John Buckley from Chester University, UK states  “A person may have got more than 30 minutes’ exercise by cycling to work and home again, but if they have been sitting still all day they will lose some of those benefits. It is like exercising but then eating an unhealthy diet or exercising and being a smoker. Physical inactivity is equally as important as those other well-known issues like diet and smoking.” 

So that also means to not feel guilty if you haven’t made it to the gym as often as you would like- the key point is that it is important to move regularly during the day, every 1-2hours to keep the body moving. It’s not just about hitting the gym a few times a week and then not doing much the rest of the time thinking that you’ve done your quota.

Here are seven simple practical tips that you could implement right now:

  1. Aim to get up from  your desk (or sofa) regularly every hour (perhaps use a timer)- for just  a couple of minutes  – walk around, do some squats, go up and down some stairs, jiggle your hips to your fave dance track or do some yoga/stretches.
  2. Consider a stand-up /treadmill desk . (In Sweden and Denmark, 90% of office workers have sit-stand desks compared to less than 2% in the UK).
  3. Try doing “active sitting” on a Swiss ball
  4. Have walking meetings
  5. Stand whilst on the phone (Standing burns 50 calories more per hour than sitting)
  6. Go talk to your colleague rather than phone or email them! Old fashioned communication still works!
  7. You could also take one  minute afterwards to do a mini-meditation, be that some deep abdominal breathing or reciting calming and inspiring affirmations.  You’ll feel refreshed, calmer, happier, and more productive and efficient for the rest of your day.

People would pay for these benefits if you could put them in a pill!

These little changes will help to improve the quality of your life – a fantastic “return on investment”.

 “Little by little, a little becomes a lot” – Tanzanian proverb


Links   – great informative website, tools for calculating how much you sit and associated health risks. LOTS of references listed there too if you wish to delve further!

“Get up offa that thing” by James Brown –