We have all heard it before. We need to move more, we need to eat right, we need to stay positive and we need to sleep more. While these are everyday things and terms we all come across all the time it is hard to put it into context without thinking of examples to make the point. Actions speak louder then words – we may all “think” we have a good plan when it comes to diet, exercise or healthy living, but then why are curable illnesses and diseases on the rise along with obesity, type II diabetes, osteoporosis, certain cancers and heart disease? The bottom line is that while we perceive and thoughts and actions as being healthy they rarely if ever are. Or at least as good as we think.
Let’s have some fun with numbers to put all this “talk” into context:
Our ancestors (read “Hunter and Gatherers” or heck even “Farmers”) typically spent 4-6 hours a day under conditions that required constant movement. These things included but were not limited to running, climbing, squatting, digging, planting, walking, standing, crawling. At the time our environments did not leave us much choice – it was a matter of survival. If we put this into context of the “Expert Rule” (The notion that it typically takes 10,000 hours of training or practice to be an expert in your field or activity) our ancestors would have been experts in moving in roughly 5.5 years! No wonder why there is virtually no evidence of heart disease, osteoporosis or arthritis when studying fossilized bones/remains from 10,000 years ago (which is not a long time when it comes to human evolution – in fact there is VERY LITTLE difference between “us” and “them” if we want to go tit for tat). So what is different? Our environment. Today the ACSM typically recommends about 30-60 minutes of exercise everyday. Now let’s be generous and say that we look at 60 minutes of exercise everyday…..we would be “experts” at exercise in about 27 years! That is quite a difference. No wonder why we are breaking down and getting injured – we have not perfected movement and exercise as our ancestors did. In the age of instant gratification it is much easier to take a pill to control high blood pressure then reach for the kettlebells and broccoli.
A sedentary lifestyle is one classified in today’s terms as <5,000 steps per day while a person is considered “active” if they are able to achieve >10,000 steps per day. How many steps in a mile? ~2,000. Now I am all about the FitBits, but I seriously doubt most people are walking 5 miles per day, but bottom line I respect what they help people do – simply move more. A recent study showed no difference in low back patients when comparing effects of a “walking program” versus “specific strength and stability exercises”. Maybe this movement stuff is important.
Ok so we need to eat right also. We will cover that in another post soon however put simply if we focus on high nutrient/low calorie based foods such as colored vegetables and fruits as well as unprocessed grains and lean meats we would do a lot better and likely avoid the need to count calories while generally feeling healthier and achieving better energy balance since we would eat less and feel satiated longer. But in a study done by the American Journal of Medicine revealed that while following trends in obesity, abdominal obesity as well as caloric intake and physical activity levels the results were surprising. From the time period of 1988-2010 obesity and BMI increased an AVERAGE of 0.37% or 8% total per year in males and females while reports of no physical activity also increased an AVERAGE of 32%. The one thing that did not show significant difference? Caloric Input.
Most Americans likely spend more then 8 hours a day sitting. A one hour work out is literally 4% of your day. If we “work and sit” that brings us to 36% of our day taken. We can even bring this number up for our fellow commuters in the North-East and say it is closer to 44% (adding an hour commute to and from work). Let’s say your also getting a decent amount of sleep (not likely), but ok, even at 6 hours a day that means that roughly 72% of our day is accounted for. See where this is going? Where is the other ~28% going? I understand the struggles of commuting everyday and having a house and a baby. I am not saying movement is easy – heck it does not even seem to be our right anymore as we have more and more medical professionals saying “DON’T _______”. Movement is a choice and much like our ancestors our survival and long term health depend on it.
Want more? This is a great site that breaks down the dangers of sedentary lifestyle into categories based on scientific research: http://www.getbritainstanding.org/health-risks.php