University study shows Hong Kong’s retirees are living the active life, sitting down half as much as students and office workers

Poll by HKU’s Sau Po Centre on Ageing reveals those who are employed can sit for up to 17 hours a day, leading to spinal injuries

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 January, 2017, 10:08pm
UPDATED : Monday, 09 January, 2017, 10:46am

Elderly retirees are the most mobile group among Hongkongers as they spend the least amount of time sitting in a day, according to results of a new survey.

The findings were released by the University of Hong Kong’s Sau Po Centre on Ageing at a press conference Sunday.

Results indicate that retirees spend an average of 400 minutes daily – or 6.7 hours – on chairs and sofas. On the other hand, students and those who are employed spend double that amount of sedentary time daily – up to 780 minutes or 13 hours.

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“Elderly people don’t mind going out and making multiple trips a day, whereas those who are employed have to spend a lot of time sitting down because they may be restricted by their job duties,” centre director Vivian Lou Weiqun said.

A total of 613 people were polled in a survey last November to study the different sitting habits of four groups of people in society: students, retirees, the self-employed, and employed workers.

They were asked how much time they spent sitting according to six different categories, which included watching television, using mobile devices, eating meals, travelling, working and social activities.

A lot of people have the misconception that sitting down is equal to resting, but that’s not really the case for your spine
Dr Josiah Au Yeung Wang-kee

At least a quarter of all the employed reported spending up to 17 hours a day sitting. On average, this group was also sedentary for up to 11 hours even on days off – mostly while using their mobile phones or doing extra office work.

According to Dr Josiah Au Yeung Wang-kee, a specialist in spinal injuries and disorders, sitting puts twice the amount of pressure on the spine compared to when people are standing.

“A lot of people have the misconception that sitting down is equal to resting, but that’s not really the case for your spine,” Au Yeung said at the conference.

He added that prolonged sitting and bad posture could lead to a herniated disc in the spine, also known as a slipped disc – a condition affecting nerves, resulting in pain and numbness in the arms and legs – as well as other spinal diseases.

He also warned that exercising on the weekends did not make up for the damage done by prolonged inactivity during the rest of the week.

“Our body functions deteriorate when they are not put to use on a regular basis, so it’s easier to get hurt that way,” he said.

Au Yeung suggested that people should stretch or stand up every hour or, if possible, every 15 minutes.