By Tanima Tandon:Â
All those who’ve had a typical 90’s childhood in India would agree with me when I say that festivals and holidays used to be those special days when we would be made to dress up in our best clothes because we were either going out to visit a relative or some distant aunt and uncle were coming home for a little chit-chat. How long has it been since we socialised like that? Seems like a distant dream now in light of the introduction of an overdose of technology in our lives. Instead of planning midnight birthday surprises for friends, we now simply dedicate our Facebook status to them to make them feel special. Instead of celebrating a colleague’s success with good food and champagne, we now prefer to send out a congratulatory email and save ourselves the cost and trouble of going out to a restaurant. The list of myriad ways in which technology and social websites have completely ruined our social networking and interpersonal skills can go on and on but I’ll stop here and urge you to take a minute to think of how this affects us as human beings and the innumerable ways in which our health — both physical and psychological- is affected.
We like to believe that technology has turned the world into a global village and that we’re now able to connect with everyone with the click of a button right from the comfort of our chairs without having to move a single inch. This is exactly where the problem lies. Physical exercise, movement and exposure to the elements are completely alien concepts to those of us who’re hooked onto our computer screens day in and day out. We’re not workaholics. We do take breaks. But the breaks comprise of surfing the internet or playing games and effectively just a switch of screens. The end result? We remain seated at the same spot for a major chunk of the day and this takes a toll on our bodies in ways in which we don’t even realise until it’s too late. Global studies show that on average, we sit 7.7 hours a day, and some results estimate people sit up to 15 hours a day.
Excessive sitting impacts our body’s metabolic system. Today, our bodies are breaking down from obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, depression and the cascade of health ills and everyday malaise that come from what scientists have named sitting disease. The obvious remedy to sitting disease is standing–while you compute or do any number of activities.
Another silent side effect of such a lifestyle is depression. A new study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, shows an association between sitting time and mental health. Particularly, the longer a person sits, the more likely he or she is to have symptoms of depression. While the full causes of depression are not entirely understood, and may never be, a biological mechanism called ‘serotonin’ seems to play an important role in regulating our emotions and moods. Much research suggests that more serotonin is needed in order to effectively combat depression and anxiety. For this reason, most major anti-depressant medications contain doses of serotonin. A sedentary lifestyle does not actively promote the release of such important hormones. Put simply, if we shut off our movement, we close the supply of important hormones such as serotonin and thereby fling ourselves into the lap of depression.
Here are 8 ways you can improve your otherwise sedentary lifestyle:
1. Walk more at work: Park your car farther away from your building; use stairs not elevators; take a long route to the restroom or mail room.
2. While computing, set a timer to remind you to stand up and stretch every half hour; take this time to pick-up and clean your work area.
3. Stand up when you talk on the phone.
4. Don’t send emails if the recipient is near; walk over and talk to him or her.
5. Avoid long sitting commutes by standing on the bus, subway or train.
6. When watching TV, lose the remote; get up to change the channels.
7. Stand or exercise while you watch TV, or just stand and move around during pesky commercial breaks.
8. During intense gaming, stand up in between sessions and screen loads.
According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise can help you gain confidence, take your mind off worries, get you more social interaction and cope with life in a more positive way. The first step to exercising is standing up and shedding the couch potato skin. So let’s take a stand for improving our health; and literally, just stand up and you’ll be better off.