It is an absolute, undeniable fact that this current human population is the ‘laziest’ set of humans in living history. This might sound harsh, but most of us spend far more time sitting or lying down than we do standing or walking!
This might not always be our fault, but it has very worrying health implications all the same. The simple act of moving helps us with nutrient deliverance and waste removal by encouraging better circulation. It also supports better lymphatic drainage, allowing for toxins to be more effectively filtered and excreted through the bowels, skin, and lungs. Without these things, we become vulnerable to syndromes like adrenal fatigue and many other chronic conditions.
The massive increase in sedentary lifestyles around the world can be traced back to a number of cultural and industrial changes and factors that have occurred in the last one hundred or so years. In this post I’m going to share the major reasons for our shift to a more sedentary life, plus a few simple ways to reverse the trend and get moving!
Technology is undoubtedly the biggest factor in the global change from active to sedentary lifestyles. Though we are not quite yet at the stage where Segways are regularly used for short distance travel, a culmination of small to medium sized technological advancements has led to a complete change in the way in which humans engage with activities on a daily basis.
Where it once was necessary to walk to the office next door to communicate a message, now a simple email is sent from the comfort of a padded desk chair. What used to be the time consuming weekly supermarket shop is now conducted in front of a computer screen, with no heavy lifting or walking through the aisles required. Instead of hand washing kitchenware and clothes, these once potentially strenuous household tasks can be completed, hassle free, by a dishwasher or a washing machine, leaving very little active work left to do within the home.
Our ancestors, obviously, were never given the chance to take these short cuts when it came to activities such as cleaning, gathering food or communicating with one another, leaving us considerably more sedentary by comparison.
However, although technology may make some day-to-day tasks easier, it demands more from human workers in other ways. Modern, technology-driven workplaces are highly productive but also very stressful. This leaves us even less inclined to exercise when we then have the opportunity for some down time.
2. Changes in hobbies and pastimes
The difference in activity levels between the popular pastimes of our ancestors and our pastimes today are rather striking. On the whole, old-fashioned hobby activities such as sports, or even simply children playing in the street, have been replaced with much more sedentary activities such as videogame playing and heavy use of computers and the Internet. The lure and extremely addictive nature of these modern pastimes has resulted in us spending our leisure time in a much ‘lazier’ way than any previous generation.
3. Over reliance on medicines
Modern society has grown a somewhat unhealthy habit of consuming multiple medicines and vitamins in an attempt to maintain good health, instead of following more traditional routes like exercise and increasing general activity levels. Some people see this practice as a cure rather than a preventative measure, and this can be put down to a lack of knowledge and education in the areas of nutrition, health and overall body maintenance. There is a contemporary tendency to engage in the ‘easier’ elements of living a healthy lifestyle (vitamins, so called ‘super foods’ etc.) without making the effort to participate in the active end of the bargain.
4. Junk Food
One of the biggest plagues on modern society is junk food. In addition to being obviously detrimental to physical health in terms of obesity and diabetes, junk food can make us lazier too. Some of the ingredients used in junk food, particularly sugar, have been shown to leave us mentally slower, less motivated and with lower energy levels. These foods tend to distort a person’s mood to make them less inclined to engage in overtly active activities.
Fast food restaurants and microwave meals are both more popular now than they have ever been. These damaging foods now form an incredibly large portion of our diets, and the sad fact is that this trend shows no sign of slowing.
A Life Less Sedentary
Judging by this handful of examples, it would be fair to say that we are ‘lazier’ not through nature, but through the many changes that modern society has imposed upon us. So what can we do to make our 21st century lifestyles less sedentary and more like the active lifestyles of those before us? Here are a few tips and suggestions for incorporating more activity in to your daily routine.
- Take the stairs
Whenever you are in a situation where there is a choice between taking the stairs or using a lift or escalator, make the conscious decision to use the stairs. This is a great, easy way to inject a bit of activity in to your life without having to make any extra plans or special efforts. Both the stairs and the lift are both getting you to the same place; why not choose the route that will help to benefit your body in the long run?
- Stand up at work
A considerable amount of modern jobs involve spending most of the working day at a desk using a computer. Research has suggested that standing at your desk rather than sitting can make a big difference to your overall well being. Try it for between thirty to sixty minutes during the day.
- Make standing a habit
Consider building a number of simple office habits such as standing whenever you need to make or receive a telephone call, or insisting upon standing breaks during long business meetings. This has been known to inspire creativity during meetings as well as a boost of activity.
- Take a stretch break
If you are in a job or traveling position that involves extended periods of sitting still, then try to remember to take regular stretching breaks. This not only helps to relieve tension, but also works to stop your muscles from becoming tight. This tightness in muscles is not only uncomfortable, but in the longer term it can also hamper your range of mobility and further discourage periods of positive activity.
- Go for a walk
Quite simply, try to walk more. Experts in the field have suggested that a target of ten thousand steps every day is a good goal to try to maintain. This can be achieved by simple things like going to make yourself a cup of coffee rather than a colleague doing it for you, or walking to the nearby shops instead of making a shorter, probably unnecessary trip in the car. Use your phone as an activity tracker to measure the number of steps each day.
Overall, though it may not be entirely our own fault, our generation leads lives that are much too sedentary. Make the conscious effort to become a little more active. The tips may seem like small ineffectual steps, but they can add up to a giant leap for your health, your immune system and your energy levels.