“Before beginning a program of physical inactivity, see your doctor. Sedentary living is dangerous to your health.”
Physical inactivity is dangerous
The modern world has been designed for convenience.
From Uber to Deliveroo to Amazon Prime, we can have whatever we want with a touch of a finger.
And whilst this can be great.
The reality is that most conveniences don’t save time; they save movement.
It’s gone so far that movement has become almost extinct.
And the worst bit is that this is now considered normal.
And I believe that this is contributing to us just feeling like we are surviving, rather than thriving.
Movement is a biological human need.
Our forefathers had a simple agenda of walking or sprinting to hunt or escape from being hunted.
No gym memberships were needed.
Movement was integrated into daily life.
But movement nowadays is seen as a chore.
The social norm is for 23 hours of the day we are mostly sedentary, and “exercise” is the 1 hour a day we set aside to the gym or to a run around the park.
And while that 1 hour is beneficial, we seperate ‘life’ and ‘exercise’ from one another.
And research shows that this approach isn’t meeting our bodies need for movement and also isn’t the most effective for health, longevity or weight loss.
The problem is not what exercise you should be doing at the gym. The problem is what you are doing outside of the gym.
The health effects of being sedentary are as common and recognisable as they are serious.
Anxiety, depression, heart disease, breast and colon cancer, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis and the leading cause of global disability, back pain, are all driven by sedentary behaviours.
However, the fittest and healthiest people on the planet have never been to the gym.
Studies of the ‘Blue Zones’ which are areas of the world where people live the longest and healthiest life, show that movement is built into everyday life.
They participate in gardening, walking to work or collecting shopping, cooking and other movements that are part of everyday life.
So sustained periods of low-level activity seem to work well.
So in this instance movement is not a chore.
And it is not optional.
It helps us thrive and stay alive.
But how do you integrate exercise into your daily life when you are so busy, live and work in a modern urban environment that is not conducive to movement?
Movement doesn’t have to be exercise
When we think of exercise we think treadmills, weights, sweat, large gym mirrors and protein shakes.
But I urge you to consider letting go of this notion of exercise.
There are many movements that are essential for a human being that we wouldn’t consider exercise.
Tying our shoe laces, carrying shopping bags, picking up children, cooking, etc.
These are all examples of NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis). This is basically any movement that is not classed specifically as a workout.
Some of the best ways to integrate NEAT into your daily routine is;
Embrace walking and learning – you can learn while listening to podcasts or audiobooks at the same time or listen to some music to help you relax.
Walk and carry your food shop – not only are you moving but you are also combining it with your food shop which is a necessity. Also carrying the weight of the food burns more calories and develops strength.
Walk or park further from your destination – why put up with waiting in traffic jams or paying for expensive parking? You could drive part way and find a suitable place to stop and walk the rest of the way to get to work or run errands.
Squat when you can sit – Squatting is such a primal thing for humans to do. You could try squatting in between adverts while watching tv, squatting when brushing your teeth or squatting while cooking dinner.
Embrace fidgeting – Forget all those times your mum told you to stop fidgeting and sit still, it’s time to embrace all the toe tapping and fidgeting.
Walk on your phone and have walking meetings – Sure, you can’t show off your stellar powerpoint skills, but maybe walking when on the phone or for an important catch up will allow you to connect more on a human level and leave you feeling more creative and energised?
Embrace music and dancing while doing housework – Cooking and cleaning are inevitable life chores for all of us but these can actually be made more fun and increase our movement by listening or dancing away to some music. How about ‘I want to break free’ by Queen?
It all boils down to one thing: If you don’t use it, you lose it.
So take action now on upping your NEAT time each day.
Our bodies are made for movement, and if we don’t take advantage of them with these smart strategies, we’ll find ourselves feeling low on energy and significantly increase our risk of disease and early death.