As humans, we evolved to be hunter gatherers. Living a nomadic lifestyle, we found our food as we moved around and sometimes spent days at a time without eating. In the approximately 200,000 years since, humans have gradually changed the way they live and work.
First came the agricultural revolution, making us stay in one place to tend fields. Then the industrial revolution that freed up labour resources that allowed us to produce new products and services that made our lives easier. This saw people continue working in manual labour jobs, but in factories instead of on farms.
Then finally the digital revolution. More and more people began working in offices where they sat down in front of a computer for most of the day. This meant that we expelled a lot less energy that we previously had, and it meant we needed to adapt our lifestyles.
So far, we’re still learning about what we need to do, how we should do it, and why it is important. But the risks of leading a sedentary lifestyle are becoming more apparent. Growing rates of obesity, and a quadrupling of diabetes cases since 1980 are serious causes for concern.
It’s not just office workers that need to think about their sedentary lifestyle. Professional gamers, whether they’re playing online or in a live tournament need to consider their posture and taking breaks to get exercise. The same is true for athletes who compete in esports, which can involve being sat down for extended periods of time.
So what should you do to remain healthy and happy while also leading a sedentary lifestyle?
Since humans didn’t always know where their next meal would be coming from, they evolved the ability to store fat as an energy reserve whenever they ate more than they needed. We never lost this ability, but we did slow down the amount of energy we burned thanks to our sedentary lifestyles.
That’s why it’s important to eat healthily. Not a fad diet, just a balanced one that gets you all the nutrients you need to sustain a healthy body and mind, that also provides the appropriate amount of calories for your level of activity.
It can be easy to stay sat in front of a screen for hours at a time if you’re engrossed in a game or concentrating on some work. However, it is important to get plenty of exercise.
Some experts recommend that we do 10,000 steps per day (although others argue the figure should be higher and others that it should be lower). Meanwhile, the NHS in the UK recommends 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of intense exercise per week, plus 3 sessions of resistance exercise (such as lifting weights).
The key thing is to do something that you enjoy, whether it be cycling, running, or swimming. Also fit exercise into your routine by trying things like walking to the shop, or getting off the bus/train a stop earlier (if it’s practical).
Take regular breaks from sitting down. Use it to get up and move around, stretch, and raise your heart rate.
Find a Balance
In his book, the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey talks about “sharpening the saw”. What he means is that we should spend time away from our work to relax, exercise, learn, reflect, and unwind.
It may seem counterintuitive as you’re spending time away from getting your work done, but you’ll come back feeling refreshed and will be more productive afterwards. It will also help you to be more creative, and you might find a better solution to a problem you have been dealing with.
The risks of a sedentary lifestyle have become more evident than ever before thanks to increasing bodies of research in the area. However, it has also become very clear that the solutions to this problem are also very easy to implement.
It is a case of using your common sense, eating sensibly, and balancing your sedentary time with exercise. It’s also important to sharpen your metaphorical saw to help keep you sharp.