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Sit less, move more
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 15 - 06 - 2013

A recent poll taken in Britain that suggests 25 percent of adults walk for no more than one hour each week shows just how sedentary people have become and how dangerous that inert lifestyle can be. The survey, which polled 2,000 adults across Britain about walking habits, found that 43 percent reported walking for less than two hours a week when UK government guidelines suggest people should do 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week. Altogether, the survey said two-thirds of adults in the UK took too little exercise. That is a surprisingly high percentage given England's postcard-perfect landscape, along with smooth, polished sidewalks which ensure great places for walking. Because of the scorching heat, Gulf countries cannot offer the same environment for walking or general outdoor exercise. People would fry if they were to work out outside. But the fact is that the lack of exercise is causing as many deaths — about 5.3 million a year — around the world as smoking.
The outlook for the next generation seems bleaker. A staggering four out of five 13-15 year olds don't do the recommended 60 minutes of activity every day. And why not? TV and the Internet are far more fun. Social networking is far more fun. Eating all things not good for you is far more fun. Even sleeping is far more fun. These youngsters have an appalling diet. Vast amounts of sugary drinks are consumed along with sweets and fast food. Few of these calories are ever burned in useful effort because the exercise is almost nonexistent.
The problem of inactivity, inside and outside the home, has reached pandemic levels, with far-reaching health, economic, environmental and social consequences. It calls for a radical rethinking of how to deal with the issue even though the easiest form of exercise is right in front of us. Walking is the easiest and cheapest way to keep fit. Thirty minutes of brisk walking each day would bring substantial health benefits. You can walk anywhere, anytime – an evening stroll could beat the searing heat — and you don't need any equipment. Walking can also elevate a person's mood, lessen feelings of depression and allow one to think more clearly. It is one of the most accessible and achievable ways to truly conquer this inactivity pandemic.
Yet despite the benefits and overwhelming evidence of exercise, one in three adults worldwide fails to do the recommended 150 minutes of moderate aerobic physical activity per week. In some cases the worst excesses are seen among affluent groups. It raises the question of whether there is something in the public psyche which discourages people from change. There is perhaps a feeling that medicine will be there to bail us out.
Many people say they just don't have the time. However, as a society we should be making time to look after ourselves. We must all build physical activity into our daily lives. We seem obsessed with eliminating effort from life. We have our cars, elevators and escalators, and TV remotes. With such labor saving devices, it's no wonder people are overweight.
Nothing new is being said; most adults know they should exercise at least a little bit. Move more, sit less, and regularly do something more intense. Simple. But there is a big difference between knowing what to do and actually doing it. The problem is easy, but the solution is hard.
You cannot punish inactivity, but inactivity can most certainly punish you.


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