Technology may be making our lives easier in many ways, but it’s working against us when it comes to our weight and activity.
This was one of the key takeaways from a lunch and learn held on 24 May for the employees of PwC and Dart, presented by Dr. Graeme Close, head nutritionist for England Rugby and professor of human physiology at Liverpool John Moores University.
To begin the session, Dr. Close summarised the existing epidemic of obesity. In the United Kingdom, where he resides, 63 per cent of adults are either overweight or obese. He noted that 42 per cent of office workers gain 14 pounds in their first year of work due to snacking, inactivity or boredom — or a combination of all three factors.
He also cited several local headlines pointing out that the Cayman Islands has also experienced this surge in obesity levels, partially because of lifestyle choices.
The sitting disease
“Everything is designed for us to sit down,” pointed out Dr. Close. “We drive everywhere and we won’t even get up to change the TV channel because there’s a remote control for that.”
The result of this sedentary lifestyle is weight gain and its accompanying health issues. Instances of depression and ill health are three times more likely in people who are physically inactive.
He said the World Health Organisation just announced a new disease called the Sitting Disease. With an average of 7.7 hours a day spent sitting, thanks to daily commutes, desk time at work and TV-watching time at home, we are more sedentary than ever before.
Movement vs. working out
Dr. Close has been looking at Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, which is energy we burn without consciously exercising. This involves simply being more active in your day-to-day life — parking further away from the supermarket, taking the stairs instead of the elevator or going for walks after work.
“You don’t even need to go to the gym if you are more active in your day,” Dr. Close pointed out, reminding the group of a quote attributed to Hippocrates back in 450 BC, which states: “All parts of the body which have a function, if used in moderation and exercised in labours … become thereby healthy.… If unused and left idle they become liable to disease, defective in growth, and age quickly.”
To encourage commitment to a healthier lifestyle, Dr. Close suggested a change in mindset to focus on “when and wills,” offering rewards or consequences as a result of healthy or unhealthy behaviours. He suggested saying to yourself things like, “When I get home and I’ve only walked 4,000 steps, I will go for a brisk walk on Seven Mile Beach” or “When I go for an Indian takeout, if I am not training I will choose a dish that doesn’t have rice or bread.”
Quoting Oscar Wilde, who said “I can resist everything except temptation,” Dr. Close recommended keeping tempting treats away and making healthy choices fun and enjoyable, which make lifestyle changes easier and more likely to stick.
Dr. Close came to the Cayman Islands partially because of his relationship with Chris Bailey, PwC’s director of human capital consulting. The two met while attending Liverpool John Moores University and have remained friends ever since. Dart had previously sponsored Dr. Close to speak at an HR conference on island, and when Mr. Bailey heard of Dr. Close’s speaking engagements in Dallas and Miami, he saw the opportunity to bring him back to Grand Cayman for a repeat engagement.
“I may be biased, but the fact is that Graeme is regarded as one of the world’s best in his field, evidenced by his clients and published papers,” Bailey said. Dart’s HR Specialist – Benefits Leif Edwards-Best, echoed this sentiment.
“This is the second time that Dart has worked with Dr. Close — his health and wellness message and his knowledge-based delivery style made it an easy ‘yes’ for our Corporate Wellness Committee when the opportunity to collaborate with Chris Bailey and PwC presented itself,” she said. “The lunch and learn is a great example of how we hope to collaborate with Camana Bay tenants in the future, sharing wellness ideas and providing our employees with the opportunity to learn not just from subject matter experts, such as Dr. Close, but also from each other.”