The answer is a resounding yes! The average Brit spends around 67 hours a week seated or sedentary – making us inactive for up to three out of every seven days.
It’s no surprise we spend so much time seated. The average employee spends around 35 hours a week at work and puts in eight hours of overtime each month. Our average annual commuting time is up by 18 hours compared to a decade ago, and getting to and from work now sees us sitting in cars, trains and buses for longer than ever before - those in London face the longest journeys at over 80 minutes per day!
With most adults watching up to 12 hours of Netflix a week, spending around 12 hours on social media and up to 17 hours a week looking at smartphones and tablets, time spent at home relaxing only adds to the length of time we remain seated each day. In fact, most Brits spend triple the time on grooming and picking out clothes to wear than they do exercising!
Are we an inactive nation?
According to physical activity guidelines, those aged 19 and over should ideally spend between 75 to 150 minutes a week being active, which works out to around 20 minutes a day.
Despite widespread initiatives to increase physical activity and a rise in fitness trackers and wearable devices – one in five Brits currently measures their steps using a tracker - the World Health Organisation says overall physical activity stats haven’t increased at all since 2001.
The prevalence of a sedentary lifestyle is far from being just a British problem, though. A huge survey of 168 nations revealed that one in four adults globally lacks exercise and that people in richer countries were twice as likely to be inactive, due to longer hours at desk jobs and sitting in traffic or commuting.
With 67% of the population not as active as they should be, Kuwait tops the list as the least active country in the world, followed by Brazil at 47% and the US at 40%.
With around 35.9% of the population needing more exercise, the UK falls somewhere in the middle, but it’s still a long way off from China, where only 14% of the population needs to exercise more!
Why too much sitting is bad for our health
The research is well documented, and most health and wellness professionals advocate for us to have more active lifestyles, with many naming sitting “the new smoking”. The longer we sit, the higher our risk for heart disease, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, among others.
One university study said that sitting and lying down for extended periods of the day could be the cause of up to 70,000 deaths a year, costing the NHS at least £700m.
Get moving: there’s no better time than right now!
Forest Holidays Ranger Gerry O’Brien has the following tips for anyone looking to introduce more exercise into their lives.
“For those that aren't very active, set yourself small targets and break up exercise routines into smaller, more manageable segments. For example, you can easily fit in 3 x 10-minute walking routines in a day, which can be scheduled in around your work and family commitments. During a lunch break or while waiting to collect your children from school are perfect examples of opportunities to partake in some gentle exercise.
It's good to get into the habit of walking or cycling any journey that's under a mile if possible. This will help to clear your mind, boost endorphins, promote fitness and additionally reduce your environmental impact and carbon footprint. What's not to like about that?
Being more active will automatically promote a feel-good factor, and over time, it will feel natural to boost your activity level. View the time that you spend exercising as an investment in yourself. Don't wait until you've lost weight or are shaping up to treat yourself. Get yourself some new workout clothes or trainers that inspire you to carry on.
There are endless challenges that you can set for yourself, such as weekly mileage targets or event participation. There is a wide variety of support networks that you can tap into, such as walking groups and “couch to 5km” training schedules. You can even register for your local park run, which is a weekly timed 5km event that is community-led, free and all-inclusive with individuals of all abilities participating. Not only will you look and feel better, but you'll love the supportive atmosphere and make many new friends along the way.
Being active is a lifestyle choice, incorporate it into your daily routine, and it becomes less of a chore and opens the door to exciting new possibilities. Once you make a conscious effort to switch into a more active mindset, who knows where the journey may take you!”