“Sitting is the new smoking”. This phrase seems to be doing the rounds at the moment, and it’s easy to understand why. While we generally have a better understanding of health issues than ever before in history, we also have a greater ability to be productive while staying still than ever before. Sitting isn’t obviously dangerous, but if we spend 8 hours a day sat at a desk working, then drive home (or use public transport), and then relax in front of the TV in the evening, we’re essentially spending all day sat down, expending very little energy.
Unfortunately we aren’t built to sit around all day. Our bodies still think we are hunter-gatherers, and therefore they like to store spare energy (as fat) rather than get rid of it, because who knows when we’ll be able to eat again. This body design combined with our easy access to high energy foods and increasingly sedentary (staying still) lifestyles is leading to the much publicised increase in obesity which we’re seeing.
Far be it from me to tell people how to live their lives (that’s for individuals to decide), however I do think a bit more walking and a bit less driving is the first step (pun intended) toward healthier lifestyles. Not only does it benefit the individual in getting more exercise, but it saves money on petrol/transport costs, and leads to fewer harmful car emissions for the planet. A win-win-win situation by all accounts.
“So how do I get into walking?” I hear you ask. Well for me the first step (I need a new pun) is to incorporate walking in your day to day routine. That way it doesn’t feel like “exercise”, because you’re just doing what you would be doing anyway. For instance it takes about 30 minutes to walk from my house to work, but it costs me nothing, and is actually rather relaxing (giving time to set up my brain for work, or wind down after work). Personally I much prefer incidental exercise, needed to go about my daily business, rather than focussed exercise where you put time and effort into the act of exercising.
As you start to get the hang of this passive exercise maybe you can work from different locations. If you’re just writing a document, why not take your laptop and work out in the world somewhere for a few hours (if your work will allow)? As I write this, I’m sat atop some rocks in Blacka Moor nature reserve outside Sheffield (having walked from Sheffield to get out here). Obviously that’s a bit of an extreme example, it took about 2 hours to walk out here, but you get the idea.
An alternative is that you might go out walking at a weekend. It’s as strenuous as you want to make it, you get to see some fantastic places, and it can often end with a beverage in a local establishment. Last Saturday I went with a couple of friends on a wander up Kinder Scout, which was very pleasant, not too strenuous at all, about 4 hours of gentle walking, and ended up with a rather delicious pub dinner (though to feel the benefits you do have to ensure that your outing is more walking and less eating).
There are many options, but walking in general is arguably the most accessible exercise there is, so why not give it a go (or increase the amount you do), and accidentally get more fit while you do it?