In the lead-up to Imperial College London Diabetes Centre’s (ICLDC) annual wellness event, Walk 2018, set to take place in Yas Marina Circuit on 16 November, and World Diabetes Day on 14 November, experts from the centre urge UAE residents to break the sedentary cycle and start incorporating walking into their daily routine.
“Sedentary behaviour has become part of people’s lifestyle with increasing urbanisation and dependence on digital technology, and the opportunities to engage in such behaviour have become ubiquitous, especially here in the UAE,” says Dr. Farhana bin Lootah, Internal Medicine Consultant at Imperial College London Diabetes Centre.
The average adult today spends more than half of their day in sedentary mode. However, sedentary behaviour such as sitting or lying down has been shown to slow down metabolism and affect the body's ability to regulate blood sugar and break down body fat. It is also associated with obesity and increased fasting insulin, increasing the risk of diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular conditions (CVD).
“It is very important to incorporate physical activity in your daily routine and reduce the amount of time you spend sitting or non-active,” continues Dr. bin Lootah. “The theme for World Diabetes Day this year is Family and Diabetes, so it is a very good reminder for us not only to start making changes in our lifestyles but also encourage our loved ones to do so as well. Even if you have been leading a sedentary lifestyle for quite a while, the important thing is to get started and invest in your future health. The good thing about walking is that it is easier than other types of physical activities and, whatever challenges you or your precious ones are facing, you can do it.”
The American College of Sports Medicine and American Heart Association (AHA) recommends all healthy adults under the age of 65 to perform moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity, like walking briskly, for a minimum of 30 min for five days a week. Brisk walking involves walking at a steady pace faster than the typical normal pace but slower than the jogging pace.
The benefits of walking briskly have been well documented. It can help manage and lower the risk of high blood pressure or hypertension, high cholesterol and diabetes. It also strengthens the heart and increases lung fitness as well as reduce the risk for heart disease and stroke. Additionally, walking strengthens the bones and improves balance, increases muscle strength and endurance, and reduces muscle joint pain and body fat. It also contributes to preventing dementia. Research shows that older people who walk nine kilometers or more per week are more likely to avoid brain shrinkage and preserve memory as the years pass. The benefits of walking also extend beyond physical health to people’s emotional wellbeing and social life.
“Walking releases mood-boosting endorphins and serotonin and makes you happy. It also is one of the best natural energizers around as it boosts circulation and increases oxygen supply to every cell in your body, helping you feel more alert. It can also become an enjoyable social occasion when done in a group,” adds Dr. bin Lootah.
In addition to Walk 2018, ICLDC has also launched the Walking Challenge earlier this year as part of its award-winning public health awareness campaign, Diabetes. Knowledge. Action. The Walking Challenge is another initiative by the centre encouraging walking and that has engaged 41 UAE companies with the aim to promote behavioural change in their employees and encourage them to be physically active. The winners of the challenge will be announced during a ceremony at the Walk 2018.