Working as a doctor in Bangalore most of my patients are software engineers. Many of them come to me with frequent colds, chronic neck pain, acidity, sleep deprivation/insomnia or anxiety issues. Typical working hours for such patients is a 12-16 hour work day with outside food/processed food or even entirely skipped meals. It is heartbreaking to see them mint money at the cost of poor physical and mental health.
They work hard for a better quality of life. But a loaded bank account is not the same as a good quality life. There is no time to invest in health or even enjoy a good night’s sleep.
So in my treatment of all these patients having sedentary lifestyles, my important advice is to squeeze in a session of any cardio as they please.
Cycling, swimming, running or even a half hour of brisk walk in the
beginning of the day. I strongly discourage taking a gym membership as they tend to have a false sense of security that they are working out even though they end up going only twice a month at most. Even here they are trying to throw money at the problem.
Our bodies were not built for sitting. In fact 100 years ago it would be unfathomable that humans will sit for work as they sit for recreation.
People share intimate relationships with their mobile and computer screens.
Be it work emails, presentations, socializing on Facebook or even dating. We sit and do it all. Pretty magical, isn’t it?
We have 206 bones, over 300 joints and about 700 sets of muscles. Our skin is stretchable. We can stand upright defying gravity. All these allow us to move about and you should take pride in doing so. What a software engineer does pretty much for more than half of his day is slouch on his chair in front of his/her computer monitor crunching numbers and feeding data. Our spine is not made for such a posture for extended periods of time. True our spine is very flexible but slouching is one of the worst forms of abuse to the spine. The spine is made of bones and cushioning discs between the bones. It is further cocooned in surrounding muscles and ligaments. Uneven pressure by this pose causes wear and tear to the spine and strains certain muscle groups when sitting hunched.
We are supposed to be using our mental capacity when doing such sedentary jobs. But this, in turn, is counterproductive merely due to the poor posture and sedentariness. For our brains to function, it needs oxygen and an ample blood flow. The bent back posture compresses the rib cage and lungs allowing less oxygen to enter the bloodstream with every breath. Our blood flow is dependent on our motion. When we walk and move, our calf muscles pump back blood to our heart from our legs.
Otherwise prolonged sitting causes pooling of blood in the extremities and retards blood flow back to the heart.
Also just running for half hour in the morning is a great start, but that does not make up for the next 12 hours sitting. All the metabolism boost you got from the exercise goes for a toss after just 2-3 hours of no activity.
Also adults are supposed to consume 2200 calories a day.
Less than 200 calories get burnt by 30 minutes of workout. That is a measly percentage of what you have consumed if you do the math. Most of our energy is consumed in living. The daily activities we need to do for survival, the breathing, the digesting and maintaining our health consumes this energy. In short, the world famous term “metabolism” consumes most of our energy. And the more we sit the less the energy spent in metabolizing.
Nearly three-fourths of our daily energy expenditure is on Non-exercise Attributed Thermogenesis (NEAT). In simple words it means the “energy burnt not by exercise”. So if you are sitting then stretch a little every half hour. Set an alarm on your mobile for every 2 hours to take a short break and go up and down the stairs twice or do a set of 15 squats or 8 burpees.
That will get your heart pumping as well as your energy burning. It is especially an important way to lose weight and keep it off. Call it your NEAT break and include your friends in it to make it less of a challenge.
Long story short, when you are busy climbing the ladder of success, make sure you walk!
Dr Farah, Family Physician at the Family Doctor Clinic,
Electronic City, Bangalore