Many years ago during our hunting and gathering stage of civilization, we spent our days walking across the land foraging for vegetable matter and hunting animals. Most of our days would have been spent at some level of activity. No one was lifting weights or running laps in fact I doubt the word exercise was even invented. Movement was just a part of the day; a way of life necessary for survival.
Now that we can drive to the grocery store and push a cart around for 10 minutes for a week of groceries (you can even have your groceries delivered right to your door), our movement levels built into our days have decreased significantly. How many adults walked to school growing up? Most. How many children walk to school today? Few. The amount of movement we get throughout our days is diminishing more and more. And so the word exercise has crept into our language. A time set aside to work up a sweat and move your body. We know how good it is for us, and yet few of us are doing enough to improve or even maintain our health.
Many diseases today are a result of our lethergic, sedentary lifestyle. Many chronic diseases that only used to affect adults, are now affecting children younger and younger. The American Medical Association is now starting to recommend cholesterol lowering drugs for children. Does starting people younger and younger on drugs take the place of healthy lifestyle habits that have been part of our DNA for hundreds of thousands of years? Common sense says no. You are still wired up just like those ancestors who walked across the land. The next generation is the first generation who can expect a decreased life expectancy than their parents. Why? The answer is in our everyday habits. One of them being movement.
What can you do? If you aren’t getting movement in your day start simple: go for a 20 minute walk everyday. There’s not one good excuse for missing even one day. Treat it like brushing your teeth. Would you talk yourself out of brushing your teeth? No. Rain, shine, hot, cold, tornado, earthquake, go for a walk. Take the stairs. Park at the end of the parking lot instead of circling for the closest spot. Make activity part of your social time. Arrange to go for walks with friends. Make quality time with your partner, a time to do an activity together. Join a hiking club and meet other active people. Make it fun. If you start equating movement with fun, then you are more likely to keep it up. And the good news is that if you teach your kids to be active, they are much more likely to be active adults. You don’t have to be a star athlete. You don’t have to look good or know how to do it perfectly in order for it to be good for your health.
Start small. Add in more as it feels comfortable. The rewards are great. No pill you ever take will give you the health benefits that movement will.
Dr. Jill Scott ND