How fit or flabby is your city?

If you live in Joburg and Pretoria, you’re most likely sitting down while you read this article – and when you’re done, you’ll stay seated.

Residents of the city of gold and its jacaranda-lined neighbour are serial sitters, says new research by Discovery’s Vitality programme.

“(Joburgers) spend the most time sitting – although they reported doing a fair amount of physical activity,” says Dr Craig Nossel, Discovery’s head of Vitality Wellness.

Pretoria came second on the sitting charts.

“It is not very difficult to spend 90% of one’s day sitting, from the breakfast table to commuting to work, to spending a few hours in front of the TV,” Nossel told City Press, just days after the company’s ObeCity Index revealed South Africa’s firmest, most food-conscious and flabbiest citizens.

The index used data from about 170?000 Vitality members aged 18 and older in six cities – Joburg, Pretoria, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Bloemfontein.

The University of Cape Town and the SA Medical Research Council were also involved in the study, which follows a report in medical journal The Lancet that showed how adults the world over are becoming steadily more obese.

Some of the ObeCity Index’s key findings include:

» Pretoria’s residents sleep badly;

»?Port Elizabethans eat less wholegrain-rich foods than their peers in other cities;

»?Durbanites don’t eat much lean meat or low-fat dairy products;

»?Joburgers are slim and eat healthily; and,

»Vitality members in Bloemfontein don’t sit a lot, but that’s about the only point in their favour – their poor diets make them the most unhealthy city surveyed.

But before Capetonians reach for the smoothies and run a quick victory lap, Nossel warns that the results require deeper analysis. The study looked at participants’ physical activity, nutrition and psychosocial wellbeing.

“The nutritional information gathered is what we observed based on what our members reported. The motivation behind these behaviours requires further investigation to understand the reasons for these results. Interaction between these three elements is tremendously complex,” says Nossel.

But he thinks Cape Town probably performed best because of good exercise spots and the fact that more people there use public transport than in the five other cities.

Capetonians also make the best food choices, shunning sugar in their tea and eating lots of fruit and vegetables.

“Cape Town people may be fitter and healthier but (some) of them are still obese. Its restaurants offer healthier food choices. I think culture has more to do with how healthy people are in any of the cities and if the environment is conducive for people to exercise,” Nossel says.

For those in Joburg, Bloem, Durban, PE and Pretoria who want to get their own back against your smug, svelte Capetonian friends, Nossel has one piece of advice: “We can all benefit from thinking about our day and making changes to exclude sitting wherever possible.”

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