Dr Deborah Lee: Why it’s time to switch off the phone and switch on the exercise!

You may love your mobile phone, but you have to admit – the phone is a constant distraction, disrupting your workday, your social life, and your sleep. Phones are expensive, cause accidents, and can be a target for crime.

But did you know that making calls, sending and receiving messages, and browsing the internet have been officially defined as sedentary behaviour?

The risks of being sedentary

Being sedentary has seriously bad consequences for our physical and mental health. High internet use is linked to a higher BMI and lower levels of physical activity. The longer you sit unmoving – on your phone, watching TV, or on the computer –  the higher your risk of cardiovascular disease (heart attacks and strokes), type-2 diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, osteoporosis and depression.

In one 2015 study, those with high-risk smartphone addiction only took around 4000 steps per day and had a higher fat mass and a lower muscle mass than those who completed 8000 steps per day.

31% of people aged 15 and over do not take the recommended amount of exercise per day. This causes 6% of deaths around the world.

Use it or lose it!

Your body was made to be used. If you don’t use it – you lose it!

When you remain sedentary  –

  • Your cardiac output falls – Unless you challenge your heart function regularly by exercise, your body becomes less efficient at extracting oxygen from your blood.
  • Your sympathetic nervous system (SNS) is switched on – and becomes overactive, contributing to feelings of stress and anxiety.
  • Your blood glucose metabolism becomes less efficient.
  • Your bone mineral density is reduced – increasing your risk of fractures.
  • You lose muscle tone – leading to worsening knee and back pain.
  • You are more at risk of depression – humans need other humans. A text message does not have the same psychological benefit as a face-to-face meeting. Being dependent on your phone leads to loneliness. And loneliness is as big a risk factor for health as smoking 15 cigarettes per day.
  • Your brain is relatively under-perfused with blood – leading to lowered brain function and cognitive abilities.

Are you convinced? Isn’t it time to switch off your phone and do something about this? Yes, it’s time to get active!

How to get more physically active

  • Deal with your mobile phone addiction – Restrict the times of the day you can use it – say an hour before and after work and an hour in the evening. Then switch it off and put it in a drawer out of sight.
  • You should be doing at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (MIT) per week – this is any exercise that makes you feel slightly hot and sweaty, such as brisk walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, or dancing. You do not have to join an expensive gym! The world is a gym – just get outside in the fresh air and walk. If finding 30-minutes a day is impossible, do 3 x 10-minute sessions.
  • Be less sedentary – Get up once an hour from your desk (or sofa) and do a few minutes of exercise – for example, running up and down the stairs five times. Try an under-desk treadmill. Take phone calls and have meetings standing up and walk around while on the phone. Try a standing desk.
  • Get a pedometer – Aim for at least 10,000 steps a day. Walk, cycle, or take the bus – don’t take the car.
  • Have your free NHS health check – This is offered to everyone aged 40-74. Know your blood pressure, cholesterol, and BMI, and have fitness goals in mind.
  • Join a club – such as a walking or cycling group. This means you will have social interaction and won’t need to reach for your phone!
  • Take up a challenge – such as a sponsored walk, cycle or swim. This is far more advantageous for your health than mobile phone addiction.

What can you do to be less sedentary?

  • Isn’t it time for change?


by Dr Deborah Lee, Dr Fox Online Pharmacy










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