The antidote to a sedentary life

WARNING: One good change may beget another… 🙂

Recently I saw the first two parts of a new mini -series on Discovery called Human Planet, made by the same people who brought us Planet Earth and Life. This series showcases incredible stories from around the world; people living in extreme conditions, hunting for food in the face of danger and adversity, or going face to face with Mother Nature for sport. What is strikingly common amongst the intensely varying people is that, irrespective of landscape or activity, from what I could see, none of them were overweight, and they were all in Nature – moving!

Not to worry yet, I’m not advocating extreme living as the antidote to our modern civilized couch potato life, but there is a major takeaway worth considering. And that is – what is the price we’re willing to pay for the conveniences of a disconnected or disembodied life? (Please see last article for info on the consequences of not exercising.) When I say disconnected, I don’t mean from the internet. I mean from the maintenance and acquisition of the objects of necessity in our life – particularly food, clothing, shelter, and our “means” of ambulation/transportation, which is most commonly vehicular rather than bipedal, whether that be our feet or a bicycle.

And when I say disembodied, I don’t mean astral traveling, I mean “re-membering” that our body is animal, and needs to be walked and exercised like one, or else its nature is violated. In comparison to nano second technological time, our body/mind also benefits greatly from connecting to organic cyclical time, the slower biological cycles of earth-time, like the sunrise, sunset, and the seasons, under whose jurisdiction all human biological functions still comply.

In this short amount of space I’m hoping I’ve induced an emotional connection (or curiosity) to the natural craving for movement, which, once you begin it, your body will crave all on its own. It’s natural once the rhythm is established and your body starts “waking up.” I’m also not talking about extreme exercise… just consistent movement, integrated more and more often into your day to day routine. Every system within the temple of your body will thank you, in fact, may even begin to purr.

Let’s take a look at some realistic ways to begin.

OK, can you guess what the #1 BEST exercise of all time is? YES – it’s WALKING!

“A recent meta-analysis of studies about exercise and mortality showed that, in general, a sedentary person’s risk of dying prematurely from any cause plummeted by nearly 20 percent if he or she began brisk walking (or the equivalent) for 30 minutes five times a week…So the one indisputable aspect of the single best exercise is that it be sustainable.”

“Walking has been shown …to aid materially in weight control. A 15-year study found that middle-aged women who walked for at least an hour a day maintained their weight over the decades. Those who didn’t gained weight. In addition, a recent seminal study found that when older people started a regular program of brisk walking, the volume of their hippocampus, a portion of the brain involved in memory, increased significantly.”

What’s the Single Best Exercise? (New York Times Magazine, 4/17/11)

Walk for every reason under the sun: for good exercise, to save gas, preserve the environment, do an errand, for beauty, to clear your head, connect with the outdoors and to your environment more intimately, to the natural world wherever you can find it, and even to a friend or partner for the sake of doing something social and healthy together.

Walk for life: on local errands, across the parking lot, up stairs instead of taking escalators at the train station, up the first 2 or 3 flights if you work in a high rise building, every hour or two for 5 or 10 minutes at work (not to the vending machine for junk food though!), for 25 minutes of your lunch hour if at all possible, around your neighborhood after dinner for 25 minutes, with a friend or family member. All you need is a good pair of sneakers, and to dress in layers as the weather gets colder.

How about some other movement in your life? Remember, we’re talking about counteracting a sedentary life with the benefits of integrated movement, not just an hour of exercise at the gym. How about gardening, trying your own lawn care maintenance, shoveling your driveway rather than snow blowing it, raking leaves, vacuuming, etc. Remember, don’t underestimate the small stuff – simply ambulating, bending, lifting, and actually just “doing” the stuff of life…before you contract it out.

How about DANCING? When is the last time you put your favorite music on while you cooked a meal, and just danced a song or two in your kitchen or living room? How about gentle running in place to counteract long seated stretches of time, (get your office or school to join you on the move!), jumping rope, or a stationary bicycle while you watch TV at night or go on Facebook?

I hope these last two articles inspire you to get off your seat and move it. Will you?

Please – keep me posted, and share your thoughts!

Until next time,
Ina