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Health Alert! It’s Time to Move

A man focusing at work in front of his work desk

Are you seated as you’re reading this?

It won’t be surprising if you are.

A study[1] published in 2015 found that almost 40% of all Singaporeans spend at least 8 hours a day seated. This number excludes the time we spend asleep, and our sitting hours increase as we grow older.

It’s easy to see why.

We drive or ride to the office, work at our computers, have drinks at the pub, do our homework at the table, unwind with our favourite programmes on the couch and read in bed before sleep.

It all sounds so normal, but there’s a problem.

This love affair with our chair has been “identified as an independent risk factor for premature mortality”.[2] In fact, sitting for too long has been directly linked to an increased risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Research[3] has shown that when we sit for long periods, our blood pressure rises, metabolism slows down, we become less efficient in regulating our blood sugar, and fat starts to accumulate around our waist.

But I work in an office! I can’t take exercise breaks.

Lengthy breaks are not realistic for everyone, especially for those of us who get caught up in meetings and deadlines. However, taking a movement break every 30 minutes is effective in reducing the negative effects of prolonged sitting.

Try walking over to your colleague instead of calling. Stand up while brainstorming at a meeting or watching television. Take a toilet break or make yourself a cup of tea. Or simply get up for a good stretch. The key to minimising cardiovascular disease is to “stand up, sit less, move more, more often,” says Tan Tock Seng Hospital’s Senior Therapist, Jaclyn Chow.

To make this really work for you, set a vibrating reminder on your phone to move every 30 minutes. Some fitness trackers like the Tempo 3C and Actxa Spur+ comes with Move Alerts you can customise. These reminders nudge you gently when you’re deep in thought or feeling the stress of a deadline. It will only be a matter of time before you start to feel uncomfortable when you’re not moving.

So that’s it? That’s all I need to stay healthy?

Not quite.

The Singapore Heart Foundation also recommends 30 minutes of physical activity at least five times a week, and this includes exercises like brisk walking, aerobic dancing and swimming.

Build movement into your lifestyle by getting off the bus (or train) several stops earlier to walk the rest of the way or taking the stairs instead of using the lift. If you already have your own fitness tracker, well, what are you waiting for?

It’s time to move it.

Patterns of physical activity and sedentary behavior in a representative sample of a multi-ethnic South-East Asian population: a cross-sectional study by Aye Mya Win, Lim Wei Yan, Kristin HX Tan, Raymond Boon Tar Lim, Kee Seng Chia and Falk Mueller-Riemenschneider

Too Much Sitting: The Population-Health Science of Sedentary Behavior by Owen N., Healy G.N., Matthews C.E. and Dunstan D.W.

What are the risks of sitting too much? by Edward R. Laskowski, M.D.


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