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Are we sitting ourselves to an early grave?

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This title is taken from a radio 4 programme I heard yesterday (8:30pm) which discussed the idea that our working lives today are much less active than 30 years ago and are part of the reason for high rates of obesity. Statistics on food consumption show that although we spend more in real terms on our food today (eating out much more) than 30 years ago there is a large deficit in total calories consumed (600 calories less per day). This is because 70-80% of our total calories consumed are taken at home, where we are making healthier food choices, like less meat, more fish and vegetables). So, as we eat less we must also be moving less.

In the 1980s work was more physical – manufacturing, agriculture etc. – whereas today services industry dominates, which has a tendency to be desk bound and non physical. More women do paid work and therefore less housework, technology has progressed so that we expend less energy than ever, making our jobs easier. This must be part of the problem. We need to increase activity within work, but how?

We have  a culture of sitting, in the comfiest chairs possible. Perhaps more standing desks could be introduced. Stairs are often hidden, with escalators and lifts more easily reached and promoted. Modern buildings could be designed to encourage use of stairs, making them attractive with paintings on the walls. Managers in the work place could be more supportive of people being more active within their day rather than making employees feel constrained by their desk.

In some Japanese factories employees are required to join group exercise classes each morning, and have to wear FitBits. In another country pay was docked if workers did not attend the gym twice a week. I have heard of walking meetings and plank meetings (make your point while you plank!) These are extreme examples, but surely there needs to be a collective movement towards encouragement of physical activity in some form during the working day.  According to the Institute of Public Health, information alone is not enough to produce behaviour change, and the public are not yet convinced that lack of activity is a danger to health. It may take many more years of pressure and action to make significant positive changes to activity in the work place. Making life harder is hard to sell!

Lisa :)

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