Adults spend most of their day being inactive

18.11.2015

Yet seven out of ten adults in Norway are too inactive, according to the public health report of 2014.

The level of physical activity among Norwegians has dropped in recent years. The report blames sedentary work, driving and less demanding chores.

“This is a development that has we have seen progressing for a long time. The main reason is that we have built a society that more and more eliminates the need to use our bodies,” says Jakob Linhave. He is the Deputy Director in the Directorate of Health.

Linhave explains that in the past we used to walk almost regardless of how far we were going, Additionally, most work in and around the home used to be manual and often physically heavy.

“Today, machines or technology do all the work for us, which means it is increasingly up to each individual to keep their body physically fit,” he says.

Jakob Linhave

Jakob Linhave

The worst in the world

Compared with other countries, Norway is at the bottom of the charts when it comes to activity level. Seven out of ten adults are less physically active than recommended and use roughly 60 percent of their waking hours sitting down.

“Norwegians and residents from Taiwan, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia and Japan are the groups that spend the most time sitting still. It is also partly due to that we can buy our way out of tasks because we are a riche country,” Linhave explains.

Professor of Medicine at NTNU in Trondheim, Jan Hoff, think it would be beneficial if the Health Directorate get the population to be active for the recommended 150 minutes a week. However, he has more faith in shorter, but more effective training.

“I recommend two days of four times four minute intervals and four times four repetitions strength training. If you combine this workout routine with outdoor activity during the weekend, it will be better for your health and take a minimum of time to carry out,” he says.

“We have proven that with this type of activity, you can keep your biological age at 20 until you are 70,” he adds.

With four times four-minute intervals, Hoff means that you should walk, jog or run uphill for four minutes, followed by a three-minute active pause. Thereafter, you repeat until you have carried out four intervals. That is a mere 16 minutes of activity.

With four times four repetition strength training, the professor means that you should conduct the exercises in four sets, where each set consists of four repetitions. It is important to have such heavy resistance that you only manage four repetitions in one set, and no more than four sets all together.

Professor at NTNU, Jan Hoff, says you can live up to 15 years longer if you are more physically active.

Jan Hoff

Health Gains

According to the public health report 2014, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has estimated that we can prevent 80 percent of heart attacks, 90 percent of type-2 diabetes and over 30 percent of cancer cases only by changes in diet, physical activity and smoking habits.

“Research shows a clear correlation between the amount of physical activity and health. Already by light muscular activity we see positive effects in the body; it increases blood flow, and blood sugars are regulated better than when you rest. The rewards are simply formidable,” Linhave says.

“Regular physical activity prevents a total of 30 diseases, and can even cure mild depression, high blood pressure and high cholesterol,” he adds.

Professor of Medicine Hoff says that in addition, you will live a considerably longer life if you train regularly:

“Training versus sitting still means an average of 15 years of healthy life.”

How to be more active

Linhave says that something must be done to activate the 70 percent who are too inactive today, but he points out that you cannot put the whole workload on each individual.

“When such a high percentage fails to be active for 30 minutes a day, we must look at our social structures. Naturally, everyone has a personal responsibility, but we believe that we must ‘rebuild’ society so that choosing to be active becomes easier” he says.

He thinks that it should be easier and safer to walk and cycle. In addition, there must be better access to green areas for recreation and outdoor activities locally.

“Workplaces, businesses, volunteers, communities and associations must contribute. We need innovative thinking to come up with better ways to motivate and inspire more people to choose activity over inactivity,” Linhave says.

“We need everyone, and we believe good interaction between the public and commercial and voluntary sectors is the way to go,” he concludes.