Against sedentary lifestyles, adopt physical literacy

Reading time: 5 minutes

Oh, but we're going to have to move, and fast!

Sitting at work for hours on end, sitting in public transport, staring at the screens of your computer, phone, tablet, TV...

We accumulate too many hours in a sitting or lying position.

We move less and less, and our bodies aren't made for it.

Beware: a sedentary lifestyle or physical inactivity can have harmful consequences on our health and life expectancy...

Yet there are simple solutions to significantly reduce our tendency to inactivity.

Let's take a look at a concept strongly promoted by Canada: physical literacy.

It offers interesting ways of reconnecting with our physical needs on a daily basis.

We'll explain!

Sedentary lifestyles: beware the danger!

Specialists are unanimous: we're becoming increasingly sedentary, we don't move around enough...

And it's very bad for our health: risk of obesity, back problems, risk of cardiovascular problems and even cancer...

Serious cause for alarm!

Today's lifestyles are far removed from those of our ancestors: we don't work as hard and have adopted other habits.

Once very active in the fields or factories, we're now increasingly seated and sedentary in front of our screens or behind a desk.

1) An alarming fact

In 2018, associations were already warning about the worrying level of sedentariness in Europe:

Almost 75% of Europeans were sedentary...

The latest more recent (2020) are no more reassuring:

- In France, "2 out of 3 people have a sedentary lifestyle"...

- 47% of women and 29% of men are physically inactive.

- With 12 h/day sitting at work, on average.

- 80% of adults spend 3 hours a day in front of a screen... Excluding working hours!

- The same goes for children and teenagers (and twice as many at weekends)!

And yet, more than 10,000 premature deaths/year could be avoided in the European Union if sports and physical activity guidelines were followed, according to the WHO and OECD...

For example: according to several studies, we should be walking an average of between 7,000 and 9,000 steps a day!

But we're a long way from that: in France, we're barely averaging more than 5,000 steps a day...

And we are not the only ones to be far from the mark, as you can see from this graph:

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), we should be physically active for 1 h/2 h every week...

Why this situation?

Times have changed... We have relieved many jobs and many situations of the arduous efforts they once required...

The many machines and technologies now at our service have made it possible to find a level of comfort which, in return, encourages us to move less, to spend less...

We've become far too sedentary, whether at work or in our personal lives.

Not so long ago, employees could take many steps during the day: climbing stairs, walking long corridors to reach meeting rooms and strike up a conversation, fetching a file, and so on.

Those days are long gone, and more and more people are sitting behind their screens: e-mails, conversations, videoconferences... Everything is done sitting in front of the computer!

I'll let you calculate how many hours you spend in front of a screen, in a car or on your sofa... You might be surprised!

In France, we spend an average of 7 hours 24 hours a day sitting...

Our eating habits also need to be considered: we eat too much fat!

We consume far too many high-calorie, high-fat foods, and neglect vegetables, fruit and so on.

(Yes, I know, some people say "fat is life"... But be careful not to overdo it!)

And we don't do enough physical activity or sport to burn off those excess calories!

In short, we've lost the landmarks that previous generations were able, consciously or unconsciously, to put in place.

Yet these lost skills, such as the confidence, skills and knowledge needed to be physically active, are necessary to be able to move on a daily basis.

An age or generation problem?

Yes... But not necessarily in the way you imagine.

You might think that it's adults or the elderly who are the least active or sporty...

In fact, the opposite is true!

Children and teenagers aren't doing enough physical activity: the physical games of yesteryear have been replaced by video games, TV series, cartoons, on tablets or cell phones.

So, in reality, they are more affected than adults!

In the past, children used to play outside, making a mockery of the numerous safety rules that our society has multiplied in an obvious effort to protect them... But playing soccer on a screen is not as interesting as actually playing soccer and developing the physical and social qualities that go with it...

4 out of 5 children do not engage in daily physical activity, according to the ONAPS data above.

Another study, by Anses, shows that two-thirds of 11-17 year-olds spend more than 2 h/day sitting in front of a screen, and are not active for more than 60 minutes a day.

Here again, even if we include school sports (3h/week) and sometimes extracurricular activities... We're not there yet!

And it's the same for teenagers!

According to the WHO, teenagers should have at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day...

But what do we find?

87% of French children aged 11 to 17 lack sufficient and regular exercise(WHO 2019).

The overall result for the French is problematic:

2) Consequences  

Today, it is the 4th leading cause of death worldwide...

Key figures:

The European Heart Journal (March 2021) revealed that every hour spent sitting increases the risk of cardiovascular disease... (And that's even if you're a regular sportsman!)

According to other studies, being sedentary for more than 3 h/day greatly increases the risk of mortality, and even more so if it exceeds 7 h/day.

More to the point: for every hour spent sitting, the mortality rate increases by 2% (Chau et al. 2013 ).

Let's take a look at the many known risks:

As the image above clearly shows, the risks associated with a sedentary lifestyle or physical inactivity are many and cannot be neglected...

In addition to the much-discussed risks of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and cardiovascular problems, there is also the problem of increased obesity and overweight: nearly 40% of the world's adult population is overweight(WHO 2020)!

France is also affected, as the graph below shows:

And the health risks are not insignificant either:

And mental health too: depression, anxiety and brain dysfunction can all be linked to a sedentary lifestyle.  

Regular physical activity plays a part in the production of the famous happy hormones, endorphins. If the brain is less stimulated, less oxygenated, then hormone production decreases and we see more stress!

The consequences of these illnesses have an impact on companies: sick leave, reduced productivity... But also on society in general, through the healthcare or social security system: the cost is estimated at 27 billion dollars/year worldwide!

So what do we do?  

Spend less time sitting and get moving regularly!

Let's sum it up in one formula: be on the move every day!

Remember that you should move for at least 1 to 5 minutes every hour... And more if you feel like it!

To be more precise, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends 150 minutes of physical activity a week for adults and seniors, and 60 minutes a day for younger people...

A few simple examples: walk or cycle regularly, don't neglect household chores or do DIY, gardening... But also practice movement-based leisure activities (running, dancing, swimming, martial arts).

In short, encourage any activity that gets you moving!

This philosophy of everyday movement has a name: physical literacy.

It's a real concept that has become a political program in Canada, to resolve the problems and dangers we've seen so far.

The problem of a sedentary lifestyle and its consequences on health is being taken more seriously than ever by governments in various countries.

In the rest of this article, we invite you to discover a very interesting concept that is the pillar of Canada's health policy: physical literacy.

You'll soon see why we find it so inspiring

See you soon... Here it is !

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