You would have been very lucky to live to see your 30’s in Palaeolithic times. Obviously this was down to a number of factors including advances in medicine, social status etc. Back in the days of the origins of homo sapiens, our ancestors had to move in order to survive. Food was not plentiful and available around the corner in the local shop or supermarket, it had to be hunted or gathered. Some indigenous tribes around the world still do this to this day like the Hazda tribe in Tanzania where men spend most of their day hunting their food while women gather berries and plants. Research like this one has looked into the lifestyles of these tribes to learn more.
Fortunately most of us don’t have to leave the house with spear in hand to find our dinner (although it does sound more appealing than manoeuvring a trolley through Tesco). We are fortunate in the western world where the availability of food is not a limiting factor (affordability is another thing). As awesome as that is for those that can afford it, it also means we lose a huge incentive to move.
The fashionable incentive to move these days is to keep the weight off. You see it every January and at the onset of summer. Gyms all over the world are suddenly crawling with people frantically flailing about on the cross trainer. Putting in a massive effort to do more now, with the goal to wear less on holidays. Once those people are back from their fun in the sun, that incentive to move once again diminishes until they revisit that feeling in the new year. The circle of life continues.
“lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being, while movement and methodical physical exercise saves and preserves it” – Plato
The link between movement and fat loss is as solid as Laurel and Hardy, Ant and Dec, Bacon and Eggs, etc. If you learn nothing else from this piece, please remember this; weight management is just an itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polka dot bikini sized benefit from movement. If you choose to move more with the sole purpose of losing weight/fat then your whole perspective is wack. Let me un wack it.
Plato once said “lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being, while movement and methodical physical exercise saves and preserves it”. Good condition does not just refer to what weight you are. In an age where mental health is thankfully being viewed as a priority amongst society, at least if not governments, the necessity for an intervention as effective as movement is now at its greatest.
The graphic below highlights the benefits of movement categorised into four sections Physical, Mental, Social and Emotional. Weight management is just one of a large number of benefits. The good thing is, this is not just anecdotal. Science has helped to support these benefits in the last number of years. Exercise can prevent falls in the elderly which keeps them out of hospital which therefore helps increase life expectancy. Pedersen et al. (2015) provides evidence for prescribing exercise as an intervention for 26 (!!) different chronic diseases including depression, osteoarthritis, back pain, high blood pressure, dementia and of course obesity.
The British Medical Journal recently advised that doctors should be able to prescribe exercise similar to a drug. It claims that a sedentary lifestyle is responsible for about 5.3 million premature deaths a year globally. Unfortunately in my own experience and from reading some research on this topic, it is quite difficult to change the movement behaviour of someone by simply telling them to move more. It is the equivalent of me asking you “can you please laugh for me at the count of three?”. It’s just not as easy as that. Change can only begin from within that person and the more someone tells you what to do the more we refuse to accept it as necessary.
The work of Michelle Seger and her book No Sweat highlights a more sustainable approach to moving more. Put very simply;
I have spent a fair share of time in hospitals as a Physiotherapy student treating elderly people who wish they could have moved more when they were younger. It’s rare that you hear a 70 year old in hospital wishing they had weighed less when they were 30. It’s not rare for them to say they wished they saw their kids more, exercised more, travelled more, experienced life more, loved more, worried less, smoked less, argued less, and worked less. What you do now, today, this week, this month, this year determines the path you will continue to walk when you are an old man or woman reminiscing on the past. We no longer move to survive, we move to live more fruitful and enjoyable lives. What better excuse do you need?