If you’re not sure what I mean when I say ‘activity’, here’s an article I wrote a few weeks ago explaining why I like to use the word activity more than the word exercise. For me, exercise means ‘embrace the suck’ and ‘go until I can’t’ and ‘sore for the next three days’. Sometimes I can be on board with that when I want to challenge and change my body in more drastic ways.
But activity, that’s the sweet spot for every day stuff – activity is synonymous with moving my body. And I’m all about activity. Our bodies weren’t designed to sit at a desk for eight hours, only to come home and sit on the couch in front of the TV for another five hours, just to lay down to sleep for the next seven hours.
I know that the sitting at a desk for eight hours part is often unavoidable – “gotta eat to live, gotta [pay] to eat” (thanks for the verse, Aladdin.. he steals though, you’re better than that). But there are some work-arounds, including taking a 5min break each hour to walk around the office; using half of your lunch break (30min) to go for a walk outside; etc.
The main reason for activity being part of the bacon framework is because the human body was built for it. We forget our roots as animals and primitive people because we’ve engineered ourselves right on out of having to move to survive. A recent study found that just 14 days of reduced activity (from 10,000 steps to 1,500 steps per day) can make us weaker, fatter, and less in shape. JUST 14!!!!
That’s a long European vacay, or a two week break over Christmas/New Year, or a big project at work that’s down to the wire. Just 14 days and our bodies start screaming for us to move!
The average American lifestyle is even called the “sitting disease” by some professionals and is synonymous with a sedentary lifestyle. How crazy is that?? We have a thing called sitting disease and it’s how most of us live our lives.
You must have heard all the reasons why activity is good for you and keeps a bunch of maladies at bay – stuff like muscle atrophy, osteoporosis, blood clots, type 2 diabetes, weakened immune system, types of cancer and the list goes on (and on). We’ve got the most access to the most information of all time, but it doesn’t seem to matter.
Activity Isn’t Optional
If you do a Google search about physical activity you’ll get millions of results (literally, millions – over 269 million) and they all talk about the important health benefits. But nowhere in there does it say moving is ESSENTIAL for both our minds and bodies.
Instead the results list makes activity seem like a good add-on to life because it can help prevent disease. The internet presents physical activity as the “extra cheese” on a McDonald’s menu – not essential, but man, can it make a Big Mac even better!
But activity is life! That’s how we’ve come to be the society we are today – because we moved and were healthy and in a good frame of mind. The book Spark by John J. Ratey takes a unique approach of connecting physical activity to the brain – there are proven physiological links and effects of physical activity to the brain’s function.
There’s even a species of sea squirt (those tubey jelly looking thingies on Discovery) that once it finds it’s forever rock or coral to attach to, it actually eats its own brain. It doesn’t need to move, so it doesn’t need a brain.
Ratey surmises that the whole reason we were so creative and inventive is BECAUSE we were so active. “Out of necessity comes invention” is a great way to sum it up. Now that we’re engineering and innovating necessity out of our existence, it can be said our inventiveness is suffering. I’m hoping we don’t invent ourselves to sea squirt level and lose the need for our brains!
It’s Not Your Fault
The human brain is wired to conserve energy, that’s what has been essential for survival throughout evolution. Food hasn’t always been abundant, homes weren’t ‘move-in ready’ and there weren’t locked doors keeping enemies and predators on the outside. To do all those things required a ton of energy, so when our ancestors could rest, they did.
As I mentioned before, we’ve engineered ourselves into a steady supply of food, pre-fab homes, and bolt locks. So now that our essentials are taken care of, we’re still of the mindset that when we can rest, we should because we might have to run from a lion later.
Except the lion never comes. Our GrubHub delivery always comes through though.
Our desire and ingenuity that has made survival automatic is the same thing that’s keeping us on the couch. So we have to out-smart our (smart) selves and make activity as automatic as turning on the car to drive to work. That comes with habits and consistency, which I’ll write about next week.
Just know your lack of desire to move is your brain tricking you again (it does that a lot!). But now that you’re aware of it, it IS up to you to counteract your brain’s sneaky-sneaky with 30 minutes of daily activity.