The power of staying active

Are you sitting comfortably? You shouldn’t.

Right now, the lack of physical activity in our western society is the #1 public health care problem that we, humans, face. It is even being said that inactivities like sitting are much worse for your health than smoking. This inactivity is leading to a slowing of our metabolic systems and causing us to become sicker quicker. It is weakening our musculoskeletal systems much more rapidly than we heretofore thought and distorting our body posture to a point where it is now an acceptable societal norm to stoop, hunch, buckle and wear our traps up by our ears. We have adapted to the chairs we sit upon and we are starting to look like them too.

Sports Doctors, physiologists and exercise medicine specialists estimate that being on your feet for just three hours a day can extend your life by two years! Our heart rate increases when we stand and we burn twice the calories when we stand than when we sit. Our brains use 20% of all the oxygen we breathe in. The energy generated in our brains is the equivalent to a 40-Watt bulb being lit at all times. So we need to fuel it.

Simple movements on our feet will do that. We actually think better on our feet. It’s time to stand up for yourself. Thanks to a relatively new branch of Physiotherapy called “Inactive Physiology” where scientists study the effects of sitting for long periods of time and the effects on the neuromyofascial system and the biochemistry related to inactivity, there is now such an overwhelming weight of evidence that humans need to be active.

How active should you be?

You don’t need hours in the gym or to jog miles to be active but simply avoid the sort of sedentary behavior that sees us spending hours of our day sitting in front of a computer or at the wheel of car or sprawled out on a couch watching any type of screen.

The simple act of standing can make a huge difference to your health. So many gadgets are now available to make you move whilst standing from surfboard like rocking devices to improve balance and proprioception to actual treadmill workstations to keep people on the move whilst in the office.

Activity is more powerful than drugs!

The good news is that active individuals reduce their risk of heart disease by 40% against their inactive counterparts. If you are feeling unfit or fat, or too old to walk up even one set of stairs, well it’s time to think again.

Low-level activity, even regularly getting off your seat, can change your health and fitness forever. High blood pressure can be lessened by almost 50%, the risk of recurrent breast cancer by almost 50% whilst the likelihood of colon cancer goes down by over 60%. There are great brain benefits, too, with the risk of developing of Alzheimer’s disease decreased by a third and depression eased as effectively as Prozac or behaviour therapy. You would expect everyone to be following the 30-minute per day moderate activity guideline. When adults in UK and USA were monitored, barely 7% of men and 4% of women were carrying out enough activity to fulfil those simple movement guidelines. It is perhaps not surprising that the USA and the UK have some of the highest levels of obesity in the world.

If people would look at movement as a simple activity then a simple stair climb or standing up or walking to the bus stop or doing the groceries is all you really need to be doing for your general health and wellbeing. For many of the population, 30 minutes of moderate activity is deemed impractical or unobtainable, so the idea that being more physical to improve long-term health is ignored or dismissed. Most people do not make the time or conjure up the energy or inclination to make the effort, so the recommendations are not just failing to engage the population, but are positively discouraging people to participate at all.

The good news is that even a small amount of activity can bring major health gains, and this is what the population really needs to be taught. If you start to think that the smallest movement makes a significant difference, then every single person can take part and gain the powerful benefits of being physically active.

What can be more fun and more positive than going out with your partner or family for a stroll in the park? It makes you feel fabulous and yes you are actively moving!!!

Other posts you may be interested in:

>> the dos and don’ts of exercise during pregnancy
>> Aiming at the perfect swing
>> Why you need to stretch

March 23, 2015

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