A New Pandemic: Inactivity

In January, the Harvard Business Review published “Sitting is the Smoking of Our Generation,” (Nilofer Merchant).

Merchant argues that as we work and go to school, we sit more than anything else. Add in the time we spend sitting at home and we are averaging 9.3 hours of sit time per day. Some health experts refer to this as the “pandemic of inactivity”. This so-called pandemic is a concern for children as well.

While some schools do a good job of getting kids moving at recess, lunch, in PE class and throughout the day – too many students still spend most of the day sitting whether it is at their desks, at computers, or in a school where recess and gym class are either restricted or eliminated. Not to mention, may people drive their children to and from school meaning they spend more time sitting during the commute.

We often get hung up on the role that diet and genetics play when it comes to obesity and forget how about the role of inactivity. New gadgets and diets are advertised daily offering new ways to shave off the pounds without so much as standing up. What is even more misleading is that inactivity can kill even if you are not obese and do not pack on the pounds. According to The Lancet, a prestigious British medical journal, physical inactivity is a leading risk factor for deaths due to non-communicable diseases. In fact, it is believed that inactivity is causing 5.3 million deaths per year. This is similar to the number of deaths the World Health Organization attributes to smoking. Regular physical activity aids weight control and also helps lowers the risk of chronic diseases including diabetes and heart disease.

How do you combat this problem?

Standing desks have been introduced to many forward-thinking companies and offices. However, they still do not succeed in getting their employees moving (though standing is progress). Instead, Merchant suggests changing some of your coffee meetings to walking meetings. This small change will get you moving and perhaps even thinking clearer. Taking the stairs is another excellent way to get yourself up on your feet and active throughout the work day.

When it comes to children, they need more physical activity to improve health, cognition and emotional well-being. Nature-based physical activity is believed to be among the most effective. Consequently, some pediatricians are actually prescribing “green exercise” in parks. Teachers with a similar understanding actually strive to incorporate outdoor learning into their classrooms creating balance in their lives and the life of their students.

As we at Pacific Parklands Foundation believe, healthy parks mean healthy people.

So stand up, take a stretch break and head out to one the regional parks for some fresh air and brainstorming!

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