Koreans' health at risk for sitting too much

Han Jin-hee (not her real name), an office worker in Seoul, spends about eight hours each day sitting at work. While seated, her job consists of taking phone calls and writing reports at the same time. About six months ago, Han worked in a different division which required her to stand most of the time greeting clients.

"I don't know which is better -- sitting too much or standing too much," the 28-year-old told The Korea Herald. "But ever since I moved to my current division, I've been experiencing frequent indigestion and bloating. And I've also been gaining weight, especially around my belly."

Han's experience reflects what's been released in the nation's latest government data Monday, which claimed Koreans spend too much time sitting down while making little efforts to exercise at the same time.

A single Korean person spends 7.5 hours each day sitting, according to statistics released by the Health and Welfare Ministry and the Korean Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

This, according to a 2009 study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, causes harmful health effects that even a 30-minute workout can't counteract.

However, the report showed that only 41.3 per cent of Koreans walked more than 30 minutes a day at least five days weekly.

Much research has linked sitting for long periods of time to a number of health concerns, including metabolic syndrome, excess body fat around the waist, obesity and abnormal cholesterol levels. It is also known to increase one's risk of developing an inflexible spine, muscle degeneration and even heart disease and colon cancer.

The report showed that Koreans who live in the cities, who are high-income earners and those in their 20s spent the most hours sitting down. Those aged 19-29 spent 8.7 hours each day sitting, while those in their 30s spent 7.6 hours daily, and those in their 60s spent 7.1 hours.

Also, those in cities spent 7.7 hours each day sitting, whereas those in the country spent 6.8 hours sitting daily. In terms of income levels, those who belonged to the wealthiest 25 per cent spent the longest -- 7.9 hours -- sitting each day, while those who belonged to the poorest 25 per cent spent the least time -- 7.1 hours -- sitting daily.

Meanwhile, a single Korean person on average slept 6.8 hours a night as of 2014, among the lowest of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development nations.

South Korea is notorious for long work hours. In 2014, South Koreans worked the second-longest hours among the OECD nations, -- a total of 2,124 hours, according to OECD data. It was 354 hours more than the OECD average, which was 1,770 hours.

Along with sitting too long, sleep deprivation is also linked to many health concerns, including obesity. Those who are consistently sleep deprived -- getting less than seven to eight hours a night -- are known to have a higher risk for depression, Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity.

As of 2014, 31.5 per cent of all adult Koreans were obese, according to the government report.