Some of the smartest inventions of the 20th Century have also become the most damaging to our health.
I’m not talking about illegal drugs, or airplane crashes or even the threat of nuclear warfare. Of course those things are pretty deadly, but thankfully rare in the context of the general population.
I’m talking about the innocent activity (or non-activity) of sitting
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Relaxation time is important, and getting a good night’s sleep even more so. And few nutrition experts would argue that we should eat sitting down to help digestion.
But the rest of the day?
We don’t really need to sit much at all. In fact we should be moving as much as possible.
Most ‘jobs’ can be done while sitting down
Machines have replaced humans in manual jobs, and now so many businesses operate through the internet, people are spending more and more time at our desks.
It’s not just in the workplace though.
Spending time on social media at home is time not spent being more active, whether that’s going to the gym or simply walking the dog. We travel by car or public transport, which isn’t always avoidable since we don’t live within walking distance of all our destinations, and when we get home we slouch on the sofa in front of the TV to unwind.
It’s a cultural trend we need to reverse
We automatically look for a seat on a train and let someone carry our bags for us when they offer.
It’s human instinct to do as little as possible to preserve energy, and this worked well when food was scarce, but these days it’s an instinct that needs to be challenged if we are to keep our bodies fit and healthy.
The big fat outcome
But all this inactivity is leading to weight gain, decreased heart and lung fitness, reduced muscle strength and even mental and cognitive problems like depression, dementia, and ADHD, all of which have been shown to improve with regular exercise.
It’s estimated that 2,857,000 work days are lost each year due to back pain or injuries, many of which could be attributes to poor posture, sitting for long hours, and lack of movement. *
A manual worker or someone on their feet like a hairdresser is pacing and moving all day, even if they don’t do any formal exercise.
It’s very likely that this person is getting more movement into their day than someone with a desk job who goes to the gym three evenings a week!
How anyone can move more
Suggestions for solutions abound that put the emphasis on companies and workplaces to get their employees more active, by offering free or reduced cost healthcare and gym memberships, and that the Government in turn should be supporting businesses to implement these incentives.
Call me uncharitable but I don’t agree the responsibility of solving the problem lies solely with businesses and the Government.
That’s disempowering people and removing their ability to take control of their own lives.
Apps like Stand Up can be used to remind you to get up and move around every so often, and I still see able bodied people using lifts where stairs are available.
To me those options are a no brainer, they really do add up, and they’re free!
Smart fitness tools
Smart Fitness Trackers such as a Fit Bit are great for keeping people on track too; you can link up with your friends and compete against them in achievable challenges like hitting a certain number of steps over the week. You can do that here at watchFit do with gamified Plans in the app. It all helps to keep you engaged and motivated.
Basic models of wearables are more affordable and worth the initial investment in your health, and the app downloads are inexpensive.
I’m lucky in that since I work from home I can prop my laptop up on a sideboard and work standing, but I think this is one idea companies should consider for their employees, even treadmill desks where you work while walking – that’s certainly on my wish list!
What can you do to get more activity in your day that can be implemented quickly and cheaply? It’s probably easier than you think, and your body will certainly thank you for it!
Connect with Expert Polly Hale