As a species, we've stopped moving. Over the last few centuries, we've stopped spending days in the fields, planting and farming. We've stopped walking for hours to get to fresh water and food sources. We've stopped playing tag after school. We've stopped struggling with manually-operated clothes washing machines and pull-start lawn-movers. We've just stopped.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not advocating going back to the times of beating your clothes against a rock down by the river, or spending days in the bush, looking for edible berries. But I am strongly advocating more movement.
I see it everyday with our patients. We live in times of efficiency and expediency. We have our automatic dishwashers and lawn-less condos and grocery delivery services. And....we have our computers. We love our computers. We sit and are entranced by their shimmering screens all day long, and for many of us, all night long as well. Research shows us that total energy expenditure of contemporary humans is approx. 65% of the Stone Age crowd. 1
So you’re getting the point, correct? In the past 50 years, we've become more sedentary than at other time in the evolution of our species. The problem is that evolution (from a DNA perspective) takes a lot more time (a lot!) to adapt to environmental changes than a generation or two. Your DNA expects you to be out there, moving and shaking and lifting and pushing, throughout your day. It doesn't expect us to sit with one hand hovering over a piece of plastic, craning our necks to look at a shiny screen, all day long.
When we move, we stimulate a part of our brainstem called the cerebellum, which in turn, stimulates our brain's learning centres, hormone control centres, emotional control centres, etc. in an extremely positive way. And when we don't move, those parts of the brain receive less stimulation.
So what can you do on a daily basis to increase your movement if it's likely that you'll be in an office job for the next 20 years? Take the stairs, get off the subway 2 stops earlier, get to the gym at lunch, and stretch every 20-30 mins at your desk.
Want to impress management with your forward thinking and your knowledge of ways to increase productivity of the brains they employ? Suggest what I like to call "Walk-It and Talk-It" meetings. The next time you need to sit down with a colleague or two and brainstorm, suggest that you have a walking meeting. Grab a pad and pen (or smartphone) for note-taking and get out there. Walk for those 20 mins instead of slumping over a table in that drab, cramped boardroom. Get some fresh air; stimulate that brain by getting your spine and limbs moving. Creativity is sure to be enhanced, as well your physical well-being.
If you need some help convincing your managers that they need to find ways to bring movement back into their employees' days, just ask me. I'd be pleased to come in and conduct a 45 min lunchtime workshop, explaining how this could just be that competitive edge they've been searching for.
Now would be a great time to get up from your computer and stretch for the next 5 minutes.
Thanks for your interest,
Dr. Brian Dower
1 Booth et al. Waging war on physical inactivity: using modern molecular ammunition against an ancient enemy. J Appl Physiol 93: 3-30, 2002