My client began her session this week with a rhetorical question along the lines of “what are we doing? So many people flocking into gyms, pumping iron, running on treadmills, sweating on machines.” We cogitated for a while on why we have to do this now, when previous generations to ours had no need for it, obtaining physical fitness from daily chores, frequent walking, more manual jobs.
As recently as my parents’ generation, many people did not have cars, washing machines, and other electric devices that saved effort. They were active just because they had to be, and probably had little time or energy left to engage in purposeful exercise for its own sake. In even older generations, the need to maintain muscle mass and cardio vascular fitness as they aged was possibly less important than today because life expectancy was so poor. In 1920 life expectancy in males was only 55, and 59 for women in England and Wales (cited by The King’s Fund). Why would they worry about keeping hold of their muscles when they were unlikely to need them past age 60?
Today life expectancy is much higher, but HEALTHY life expectancy has not increased at the same rate. In 2017 a male could have expected to live to 79, but since age 64 would not have been in ‘good’ health. A woman in 2017 lived to an average of 83, of which 19 years would have been in ‘not good’ health. The price of a longer life – thanks to advancements in medical expertise and disease prevention, technological progression and increased knowledge of beneficial nutrition – has been more disability and weakness in later life due to extreme sedentariness and lack of physical daily movement.
So, it looks like we will continue to live long lives, and we should try to keep physical activity a top priority in order to have a good quality of life. Recently I have read a few times that visiting a gym a few times a week may NOT be enough to outweigh a totally sedentary lifestyle. It is extremely important and favourable to metabolic health to sit less, stand more, and move around for small amounts of time throughout the day.
In addition, studies have shown that spending time outdoors in green surroundings has an incredibly beneficial effect on our mental and physical health.
I appear to be rambling. Needless to say, please keep moving this week and aim to get up from your chair every hour to stretch, walk, jiggle, dance, squat and smile your way to health.