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Heck, are we even human anymore?

The lack of movement takes us away from the essence of being human

When observing an object, you can somewhat judge what its function is by analyzing certain features and characteristics about it. A table has four stationary legs with a flat top which suggests that it is meant to stay in place to support its top while allowing for room underneath. In a sense, we have somewhat described the essence of a table. To describe the essence of a human on the other hand is extremely difficult and is usually met with numerous opinions. But let’s try and describe a human the same way we just did with the table. A human is a living, organic mass with moveable limbs connected to joints that allow movement in many directions via muscular contractions. Based on this description, your essence is to move. However, we don’t realize this until we stop moving.

More jobs these days need people to spend their waking hours sitting at a computer desk thus limiting their movement. The emergence of cardiovascular disease, obesity, and diabetes in North America also stems from a less active society. On top of being less active we are also eating lower quality foods. We are consuming a lot more energy in the form of carbohydrates, specifically simple sugars like glucose and fructose, and less in the form of proteins and healthy fats. The body compensates for a sugar overload by storing its energy into fat tissue if it is not being utilized. Obesity results from the accumulation of fat and leads to a body more prone to illness and under constant inflammation. The prevalence of Type 2 Diabetes, a disease strongly associated with obesity has also increased markedly over the past 50 years. But to go back to my point about movement, the best preventative measure against such diseases is regular exercise. However, it is clear that if you do less of something that you are naturally supposed to do more of like movement, your body will slowly deteriorate.

So why do we stop moving?

Reason #1: Too much moving is considered bad behaviour. Let’s face it, children are a bundle of energy. They naturally spend a lot of time exploring, jumping, fidgeting, dancing, touching things, and causing ruckus. Sometimes it seems like the only thing that stops them is when they get tired and have to take a nap from all the moving they do. When was the last time you did one of those things by the way? I’m assuming you’re old enough to read so the answer will surely be “I can’t remember”. However, you’ll likely remember moments when you were reprimanded by your parents for moving too much. Parents lay down so many rules for children to follow at a young age that it might be doing more harm than good when the rules involve preventing random bouts of movement. It can create the foundation for a life filled with a lack of movement simply because it was always deemed inappropriate even if it was harmless in actuality. Let the youngsters move as long as they aren’t doing any harm to anyone including themselves. Encouraging an active lifestyle will teach them that moving is not only normal, but also very beneficial for them. Once they get old enough, get them involved in activities where they can work up a good sweat on a regular basis.

Reason #2: Everything is becoming easier to access. Kids are driving cars midway through high school, people spend more time getting together on online forums, retail stores are shutting down due to the ease of online shopping, and Krispy Kreme now has a drive-through option… Seriously. It’s great that errands are becoming less time-consuming because it leaves you more time to spend doing something active. However, the problem is that errands are the only means for some people to get up and move. Since you have to “go out of your way” to do something active for your health, the easier access to things can also make people spend the extra time stagnant. This relates to a previous point about how work has shifted from a labour-dominant workforce to a more desk-dominant one. Everyone is telling us that moving is not as important anymore, so it’s not surprising why so many people are affected by conditions associated with a lack of movement.

What about people that move all the time?

If you speak to individuals who are always engaging in physical activity, they will normally tell you that they can’t see themselves living inactively. They will always refer to their personal list of benefits that keep them going but it generally revolves around better sleep, reduced stress, fulfilment, entertainment, increased appetite, socialization, and improved strength/mobility/flexibility/functionality. The transition of exercise from a difficult activity to a habit is best described as a moving train. To get something as big as a train moving takes time and the right amount of resources, but once it gains momentum it will keep going and you can then focus more on where you are going as opposed to how to get going. Similarly, once exercising becomes a habit, you can focus more on what you want to get out of your exercise as opposed to simply getting to the gym in the first place.

In a nutshell…

It is becoming increasingly important to get active as our society becomes less physically active. Parents tell kids to stop moving too much, workers are spending more time on computers, and technology is making our lives “easier”. We cannot rely anymore on errands or jobs that get us moving so we must take it upon ourselves to get out and do something active. Change must happen within yourself initially, but once that happens you can become a role model that can encourage others to pursue an active lifestyle. Change can also happen anywhere. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk instead of taking a 5 minute bus ride, do your own groceries, take your kids out to the park and have fun with them, anything works! The more you move, the more you embrace your essence as a moving being.

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I'm a physiotherapist resident who writes about topics in health, science, and fitness that are relevant to you. My mission is to share value through my experiences as a health care professional.