By Ore Taiwo Makinde
Stay Home? but ‘I want out’. This phrase may have been acted out by a Nigerian returnee from Cote d’Ivoire who supposedly sneaked out of an isolation centre to socialise with friends. It is just the beginning of a 14-day lockdown in some states and many of us have become so restless. There have been several reports from various countries on how people had to be flogged to stay home during this COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite the updates on how virulent the virus could become if standard precautions fail to be adhered to, this policy has met with a lot of resistance including the burning down of a police station, several vehicles and molestation of uniformed officers. Any opportunity to be free would be welcome. After all, the human rights law includes freedom of movement.
However, in the face of COVID-19 with the unprecedented loss of lives in such a short period of time, the mind-set of the common man needs to change. Changing our mind-set from ‘I want out’ to ‘Stay home’ is surely the best mantra in the face of our circumstances, isn’t it?
Several theories have been postulated on how beneficial our staying at home could be. A particularly good benefit is the opportunity to bond with family members and scale up our relationships. The children who were once largely ignored are right in our faces. The switch from working from eight to five most days in a week to staying at home all week has however turned into a bitter pill to swallow for most people.
I am particularly concerned about our physical activity levels during this period. We ought to audit ourselves and do a check on what would benefit our health. However I was impressed when several ladies on an online platform I’m on posted photos and videos of their workouts from various home locations. It felt good to know that we are not throwing our health away by spending most of the day in a sedentary mode.
So what is sedentariness? In simple terms, it means physical inactivity; not moving. This includes periods of prolonged sitting or lying down, excluding our night sleep. Prior to the new ‘stay home’ rule, many of us were sentenced to 9 – 10 hours of sitting daily at work, in our shops, offices, in traffic and so on. The likelihood is that with this new rule, we will switch from sitting at work to sitting at home, in front of our televisions, DVD players, computers, devices, listening to the radio, reading books and newspapers, catching up on assignments, even oversleeping. You may say, ‘What’s the harm in this? ‘C’mon, I’m bored stiff’.
Sitting was at a time referred to as the new smoking. Research has proven that it is actually almost as bad as smoking. A global analysis of the reasons why people die was linked to physical inactivity being the fourth leading cause of death resulting in 1 in 10 of premature deaths. To buttress this further, a study compared drivers who sat most of the day to conductors and guards who did not. The outcome was that those who sat mostly; the drivers were two times more likely to develop heart disease despite similar dietary habits in both groups.
Let us outline the other ills that could arise from being inactive or sedentary:
• It increases the risk of dementia, that is the deterioration in the brain’s cognitive function;
• It spikes anxiety levels;
• It increases the risk of weight gain as one is unlikely to burn consumed calories;
• It increases the risk of diabetes;
• It increases the risk of a clot in the vein known as deep venous thrombosis (DVT);
• It leads to bulging and twisting veins – due to pooling of blood in the veins;
• it leads to osteoporosis which is thinning of the bones;
• It damages the spine and knees leading to back pain and osteoarthritis;
• It increases the risk of some cancers, particular breast cancer.
So what is the way out? In order to reduce the risk of dying from the ‘stay home’ rule, you can work more movement into your day by adopting the following strategies:
• Stand up and move every 20-30 minutes;
• Stretch yourself every 30 minutes e.g touch your toes, arm raises, leg lifts, push ups;
• Take a stroll around your room or compound;
• Set your computer on top of a box on a table and stand in front of it while working;
• Engage in brisk walking, jogging, skipping or dancing for at least 20-30 minutes daily;
• Look for reasons to get up; run your errands and house-chores within the house instead of assigning someone.
In conclusion, it is difficult to reverse the effects of sitting 7- 8 hours at any one time by working out 7 hours in a week. The secret to overcoming the effects of sedentariness is to move constantly. How fit you turn out after this ‘stay home’ exercise will determine how beneficial the restriction was to your health. That’s it! I’m out for a walk!
Dr Ore Taiwo Makinde is a Consultant Family Physician and certified Lifestyle Medicine Physician.
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