In the forests and savannahs of Africa lives the chimpanzee, our closest living relative with almost 99% shared DNA. Part terrestrial, part arboreal the environment forces our ancient cousins to be fit and strong as they climb trees, swing through canopies, grip onto branches and sprint from danger on a regular basis. For a chimpanzee impressive athleticism is a natural consequence of surviving.
Historically the environment would have imposed similar physical demands on us humans as we sought food and shelter to survive in a world without machines. Fast forward to the present moment and these signals have been reduced to distant echoes by the proliferation of technology in the realms of food, transportation, construction and communication. Instead we must choose to artificially insert physical activity into our lives in a bid to stay fit and strong. This requires a conscious decision and goes against our natural instincts which would prefer to conserve calories whenever basic needs are met.
Stone-age wiring does not work so well in a space-age world.
To solve this conundrum we must use intellect to overcome instinct and fashion a lifestyle where the missing movement signal has been restored. A commitment to regular workouts is the obvious solution and one which has been taken up by millions around the globe.
However, even the most dedicated of fitness bunnies will spend a relatively small percentage of their week working out. It is what happens in the other 160+ hours which is becoming increasingly important. We need to build more movement back into our day. Simple habits could include...
- Walking to the shops and carrying our food home
- Installing a pull up bar on a commonly used door frame
- Choosing the stairs over the escalator
- Parking further away from our destination
- Getting off the train or bus a few stops early
- Taking part in a physical sport or recreational activity
- Short movement breaks spread throughout the day
- Take time out to stretch tight muscles
- Pace back and forth whenever we are on the phone
- Purchase a treadmill (or standing) desk
- Building a walk into our daily commute
Physical exertion may have gone from compulsory to optional but we must strive to keep it on the menu. How can you restore the missing movement signal into your daily routine?