In a past blog I mentioned how we got too smart for our own good and engineered activity right out of our lives! Seems counterintuitive, right?

Especially given that nearly three out of four (yes, 75%) of American adults are overweight or obese. To me it seems prudent to begin engineering some right back in there, don’t you think?

And I don’t mean we need yet another ab roller or shake weight or thigh master invented, I mean we need to deliberately engineer activity back into our lives.

Via Wizardry?

It’s clear all the government guidelines and recommendations aren’t acted upon, yet we’re still spending more-than-we-would-think tax dollars on figuring out how to get people to move more.

But let’s work this problem backwards, because we didn’t get here via wizardry, so we’re not getting out of this predicament via wizardry either.

So here we go…

All these changes and engineering feats that removed activity (aka caloric expenditure) out of our lives was because it felt GOOD not to have to do something.

Washing the laundry sucked because it was hard work getting the water from the river (or the well if you were lucky), scrubbing clothes on a washboard, beating them against rocks, wringing them out, and then hanging them to dry. Our monkey brains moaned and groaned every time, so when a new solution (washer and dryer) came along, our monkey brain jumped onto that bandwagon and hasn’t looked back.

Fair enough… washing laundry by hand sounds terrible.

But what about when we expand it to every area of our lives? Everything is now easier and extremely satisfying to our lazy monkey brain, which, for the record, is DESIGNED with DNA to be lazy and conserve energy. 

Fight Fire with Fire

To combat the laziness of our monkey brain, we have to do two things: 

  1. Engineer some activity back in (aka trick our monkey brain)
  2. Make it super easy (aka more trickery)

To engineer activity back in, try a habit stack. I wrote about it last week, but the gist is that you take something you already consistently do (go to the bathroom) and add a desired thing (do 3 push ups) with it. So after every time you go to the bathroom, do 3 push ups. That’s a habit stack.

Our monkey brain can handle this because it’s simple – we already go to the bathroom 6-10 times per day so it doesn’t feel like it’s adding something to our already full plates. And the trickery continues because 3 push ups is easy (if it’s not, start with 1).

When we’re able to do something this automatic (bathroom) and easy (3 push ups) our monkey brain sees it as success. And our monkey brains like success because it feels good! Success gives us confidence, a sense of achievement, and gives us momentum.

So those same things that enticed us to engineer stuff out of our life (washing laundry by hand is hard, washer and dryer is easy) are usable to engineer activity back into our life (we already go to the bathroom several times per day, 3 push ups is easy).

Engineering Examples

  • The bathroom habit stack
  • Be active (crunches, squats, jumping jacks, walk) while your morning coffee brews
  • Do lunges to the printer (work up to doing lunges to the printer AND back)
  • Use the pomodoro technique and use the 5min breaks as activity breaks
  • Make social media rules like only scrolling while you’re moving OR set your phone to limit the amount of social media scrolling to the equivalent of your activity that day
  • Make meals from scratch (kneading and rolling out pasta dough definitely exerts calories)
  • Check your email? Do a sit up.
  • Park in the farthest spot away from the store
  • Take the stairs

None of the things listed above will be life altering. You’ll probably just resume going about your day after you’ve done the activity. But imagine going from doing nearly zero activity to adding in one of these techniques each month.

Talk about life altering! The compounded effect of engineering activity back into your life isn’t something your monkey brain will mind because it won’t even notice. Using the same small-unnoticeable-changes-over-time trickery that got us into our situation will be the same trickery that’s going to get us out of it.

It just has to be deliberately engineered back in… by you. You’re solely responsible for engineering your health, but you’re also the most effective because you know just how to trick that ole monkey brain.

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