We are at a turning point in American history, and it’s not a good one.
We are getting shorter. Fatter. And while on one hand it’s true that a little bit of extra weight won’t hurt us — too thin isn’t a good thing especially as we age — as a nation we are trending towards living truncated lives.
For the first time ever, our kids are expected to live shorter and less healthy lives.
Part of this is because we have spent a great deal of intellectual energy on technology to make our lives easier, safer, simpler, more convenient. Heaven help us that we expend effort to mow a lawn, wash dishes, vacuum floors when such things can be mechanized or we can get someone or something else to do it for us.
Read: Sedentary. Or put more honestly, physically lazy. There is an appearance of busy- but too many of us are not working our bodies. And that is the fundamental, critical difference.
There’s Only So Much Time…
Here’s the deal.
Assume that on average, we put in about forty hours a week of work. That’s a gross understatement as so many of us work more than one job (to survive), or out of fear that we might be replaced. If we get seven hours’ sleep each night, and that’s also being very generous, that’s another 49 hours.
Allow between two and a half to three hours a day for things like bathing, cooking, eating, if indeed we take the time to feed ourselves, and that leaves us about 58 hours left out of a total of what we all have: 168 hours a week.
In a Nielson Company audience report released in 2016, it found that Americans had precious little time left for what we used to do (play, volunteer, go to movies, hike, go outside, do stuff with our kids, you know, LIVE) because we spend an average of 50 hours a week of those remaining 58 hours watching television and on our computers and devices. Just under ten hours a day, staring at a screen. For some, a great many more hours.
Mostly watching television, actually. Watching other people live, exercise, have a life.
Watching TV Shortens Your Life Span
In a paper published by the British Journal of Sports Medicine, Dr. J. Lennert Veerman and his colleagues found that each hour of television each day shortened our lifespan by about twenty-two minutes.
So it’s not just that we’re sedentary. We’re killing ourselves with our comfort.
Netflix at home. Food delivered to our doors. Never have to move a muscle.
Brain dead. Pretty much. Comfort and convenience. Self-tying shoes. Self-making beds. No, I didn’t make that up. (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/857840278/smartduvet-the-self-making-bed-is-here).
People say they’re tired all the time. Yes of course they are. Because we’re not exercising. People get exhausted emotionally, intellectually. There’s no outlet. We don’t need more rest. We need more movement.
Interestingly, the smart folks over at the National Institutes of Health, UC Davis and University of California at Santa Barbara have a lot to say about what happens to our brains when we exercise.
Funny thing. Seems we’re wired to move.
Absolutely everything works better, fires better, functions better.
In a nutshell, your brain becomes younger. Better balance, coordination, working memory.
Precisely what is not happening in most of us as we age, as we settle like melting marshmallows into couches and cram sugar-laced food into our bodies.
Alzheimer’s isn’t Inevitable
What this tells me is that Alzheimer’s isn’t necessarily automatic. When we don’t eat crap, don’t sit around like lumps for ten plus hours a day, we’re less likely to have our brains turn to mush. Huh. Makes sense to me.
I constantly see memes on Facebook asking some higher power to make life easy. That is the LAST thing we should be asking for.
The great Nobel Prize winning Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore wrote:
Let me not pray to be sheltered from dangers but to be fearless in facing them
Let me not beg for the stilling of my pain but for the heart to conquer it
Let me not look for allies in life’s battlefield but to my own strength
Let me not crave in anxious fear to be saved but hope for the patience to win my own freedom
Grant me that I may not be a coward, feeling your mercy in my success alone, but let me find the grasp of your hand in my failure.
When You Whuff the Ball, Do You Thank Your Maker?
I have never once seen a football player thank his Maker when he drops a catch, fumbles the ball or misses a tackle. Marcus Williams’ whuffed tackle in the Saints-Vikings playoffs this past January could have been an opportunity for him to say thanks for the humbling lesson. But he didn’t. Why not? Because that’s when he learned a lot more about himself. How arrogant only to say thanks when you succeed. Thank you for humbling me, Dear Lord. What a novel idea. But hey, at least those guys are exercising. Those of us watching, aren’t.
The Real Cost of an Easy Life
An easy life is costing us life. If you’re feeling stressed, my suggestion is put the damned remote down, get outside and start walking. I guarantee that you’ll feel better right away. Your head will clear. You will deliver much needed oxygen to your brain and muscles. Your whole body will respond. Not a bad habit to develop.
As a nation being slowly killed off by Chronic Sitting Disease, this isn’t such a bad idea.
Man is a marvelous machine made to move. Movement is the medicine that keeps us firing on all cylinders. The more we sit, the faster we die.
It really is Just. That. Simple.
Now I’m heading outside to run.