There are many things within our modern world that harm our health. But as with any potential health problem, once it is identified we take measures to combat that risk. Smoking - identified as a heath risk many many years ago, combatted with a uncountable number of adverts, banners, and cigarette packet messages highlighting the dangers to health and the problems smoking creates. Being overweight - creates an obvious risk to health, clogging up arteries and bringing with it a whole host of other health issues, combatted with a worldwide drive to exercise more, and eat less processed and saturated foods. There are too many to mention, but the point I'm trying to make is that once a problem is recognised, we take steps to prevent and reduce it. Except we have yet to recognise a problem that is staring us in the face all day everyday. That sitting down is slowly killing us.
Our modern lives not only don't combat daily inactivity, they encourage it. Our daily commute, our desk job, getting back home to catch that latest episode Game of Thrones - you get the picture, we’re sitting down inactive for extensive periods of time. From that slouched position so many of us favour in an armchair we can check whats going on in the world, complete a days work, communicate with relatives thousands of miles away, and order dinner - all without leaving the comfort of our own homes. And thats the problem right there.
With each new release of the iPhone or other technology, we unravel a thread of our previous lives that were so interwoven with activity it becomes a distant memory. We walked to the post office, rode our bike to work, actually spoke to our colleagues, rather than the cold electronic relationships we now share with them via email. Nowadays we can complete all these tasks whilst sitting down in one form or another - it seems we don't need to do that “needless” exercise that used to be such a staple in daily life , because we now have this poison called wifi. With the increase in inactivity comes the dark lurking mention of the inevitable health problems that follow. Diabetes, obesity, depression, and certain types of cancer are just some of the health issues rearing their ugly faces when inactivity kicks in.
Hopefully the mention of such health problems should be enough to shock you into making a conscious effort to reverse your sedentary ways and get active. But because these things are mentioned so often now in modern life, people look at them with the ignorance of a child. Making excuses for ourselves because “that’s not me”, “that wont be a problem for me”, but sadly the reality is that 90% of us will suffer from anything from back pain to a serious illness due to inactivity and sitting down - now thats a whole lot of people, and a big problem.
Oh but working out will combat that problem right? No, think again. The guideline daily amount of exercise is simply not enough to counteract the health problems that will inevitably arise sometime in an individuals lifetime that spends most of their time sitting down. We simply are not active enough in our day to day lives. Ok so at this moment the outlook looks pretty bleak, but there are steps you can take to make sure you minimise your risk of the potential health problems - and the answer is NEAT.
Non exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT), is just the scientific name of the act of well, getting active. Its not about working out for hours at a time, but making a conscious effort to do more. A study of the Amish in 2004, a culture that shuns post-industrial revolution technology, showed that as a group, they are remarkably healthy. Despite a complete lack of treadmills and modern weight rooms, their cancer rates are far lower than the average of america, and obesity is almost completely nonexistent. They don't have a secret formula, but rely on daily activity (NEAT) to stay healthy. Amish women amass almost 14,000 steps a day, whilst the men hit almost 18,000 on a daily basis. Soon there will be a point where we sit down day to day for so long our step count would be reduced to such an embarrassing number you wont need a calculator to count it, but your fingers. Unless we change.
Im not saying get rid of your iPhone, or tablet or other amazing pieces of technology, because they are very useful. I’m saying we need to recognise when we are spending too much time sitting down and being inactive and make a conscious effort to get up, and get active. Here are a few of the non time consuming, non sweaty NEAT that you can drip feed into your daily life.
1.) Be mobile when using a mobile - Ok so you need to take that phone call, but that doesn't mean you cant get up and stretch your legs whilst answering it. Walk around whilst on the phone, take each call as an opportunity to get some movement in your legs. The increased blood flow through your legs and around your body will actually increase concentration and focus, break that mind block you had whilst wasting away at your desk, and maybe make this the greatest phone call you've ever had.
2.) Stop being so annoyingly productive - Stop arranging your desk so all you have to do is lift a finger and every-things within touching distance. Change it up so you have to reach for that pen, set the filing cabernet up on the other side of the office, and as for the printer, well that doesn't even need to be in the same room. Ironically, killing this type productiveness will actually increase your workload productiveness, as most of the time you save by being so interconnected, you lose in procrastination on Asos.
3.) Take a micro break - After about 20 minutes your muscles and ligaments get stiff from sitting in the same position. Take a break, go for a walk, stretch, breath, refocus, and come back to that spreadsheet with the renewed positivity Tony Robbins would be proud of.
4.) Get your family involved - chances are your not alone in sitting down too much, and could both help someone else and benefit from the added support. Maybe skip the cinema and do something more active, go for a walk to grab dinner rather than ordering in, and ditch the playstation for some time with your children - a bike ride is a great choice.
5.) Create your own workout - No I don't mean pay the shocking amount some gyms charge, but rather create a form of activity wherever you are, like a game. Get off the the bus a stop before, so you can walk that extra 5 minutes and take in the neighbourhood you probably didn't even knew existed. Ditch these things called escalators that have silently snuck up on us over the years, making us all but forget their distant relatives - the stairs. So take them instead every now and again, every little thing adds up.
These are just some ideas to kickstart a conscious thought that activity is good for you and sitting down is the enemy. Oh, and those human conveyor belts at the airports these days? Give those a miss, the last thing you need before you sit down for six hours is to rest your legs.
The Shake It® Team