Report gives fascinating insight into how Brits spend their time

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A new report from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has revealed in fascinating detail how we all spent our days during March, and a leading testing expert says it’s not healthy! Brits spend two hours a day watching TV and over 45 minutes surfing computers and devices, but just 20 minutes on fitness activities, which is less than we did at the height of Covid.

Compared to their behavior at the height of Covid, the report reveals people spend nearly an hour less time relaxing but still enjoy 223 minutes (over three and a half hours) of entertainment, socializing and general free time a day. Most of this time is spent watching television (two hours and 16 minutes) and socializing (33 minutes). 27% of us (1 in 4) are still in bed after 9am at weekends and go to bed later to recover from the working week.

However, when it comes to fitness, Brits average just 20.4 minutes a day on exercise, sports and wellbeing and 10 minutes a day engaged in a healthy activity such as gardening.

Dr Avinash Hari Narayanan (MBChB), Clinical Lead at London Medical Laboratory, says: ‘Looking at a typical day for an average Brit, things don’t look too healthy. As well as being fairly sedentary in our leisure time, we are also too shattered by jobs and chores to exercise. That’s because those people who go out to work spend 422 minutes (seven hours) away from home, including a grueling 95.2 minutes (over one and a half hours) simply travelling. When we get home, no wonder our instinct is to crash out and sleep in at weekends.

‘Stay-at-home parents don’t have things much easier. They spend 134 minutes a day (two and a quarter hours) in concentrated childcare activities, while people who don’t go out to work also spend 170.7 minutes a day (almost three hours) on household work such as cleaning.

‘With all this in mind, who can blame us for skipping healthy exercise and sports activities? However, spending a woeful 20.4 minutes a day on sports and exercise is not great.

‘Crunching the numbers, we can see that some people spend a lot more than 20 minutes exercising, but for many others it’s scarily lower. As a mean average, Brits spend just 20.4 minutes a day on exercise and health activities, but those people who do participate in exercise put in a lot more time, around 80.2 minutes (an hour and 20 minutes) a day. However, only 25.4% of us, around 13.3 million adults, report that they do exercise daily. It’s very likely the rest of us do far less or no exercise or wellbeing activities at all.

‘That 20 minutes mean average amounts to less time spent exercising than at the height of Covid. In March 2020, just as the pandemic began to impact, Brits spent 19.8 minutes a day exercising. By March 2021, that had climbed to half an hour a day. However, that tumbled to 23 minutes in March 2022 with the end of lockdowns and went down further to 20.4 minutes this March. Over a three-year period, people are back where they started.

‘At the height of lockdown, there was a recognized need for activities such as walking, cycling, jogging, yoga and HIIT (high intensity exercises for up to 3 minutes). However, it looks like many of the home treadmills, weights and exercise bikes we invested in enthusiastically during the pandemic are now gathering dust.

‘Our increasingly sedentary lifestyles will leave us with health problems, which could place further strain on the limited resources of the NHS. Lack of physical activity and exercise is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Inactivity results in fatty material building up in our arteries, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke.

‘Those of us who are conscious we aren’t getting enough exercise should plan to incorporate fitness activities into our daily routine. It’s also a good idea to check we are in shape, especially if we have neglected healthier habits. Blood tests should become a vital part of any annual health check “MOT”. These are fast, relatively inexpensive and can identify many conditions before symptoms arise, leading to faster, timelier treatments.

‘For example, close to 1 million Brits are believed to have undiagnosed diabetes. A simple heart health test could determine if someone is at risk of developing or currently affected by this manageable condition.

‘Additionally, London Medical Laboratory’s General Health Profile blood test provides people with a comprehensive check-up of their general health, including diabetes (HbA1c), gout, liver & kidney function, bone health, iron levels and a full cholesterol profile. It can be taken at home through the post, or at one of the many drop-in clinics that offer these tests across London and nationwide in over 95 selected pharmacies and health stores.

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The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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