This week’s New Scientist reports on the dangers of sitting still. Several research programmes, including one lasting 14 years and covering 123,000 middle-aged adult produced similar results about the dangers of sitting still for too long. For those who spend 6 hours or more per day sitting down there is a 37% higher mortality rate for woman and 17% for men.
The message is clear: we all need to get moving! What is more, you cannot compensate for sitting still by going to the gym a few times a week although of course there are still health benefits from doing so.
The trick is to move every hour or so for at least 5 minutes. You will probably be even more productive at work because the glucose will not be building up in your body, so your metabolic rate will increase and so will your capacity to focus.
What really got me thinking, though, was the thought that this is what we ask children to do on a daily basis. Sit still. My son’s school have double periods for every lesson now, and often they do not move from one class to another because it ‘wastes time’. What are we actually training them to do as adults?
What about all the kids in mainstream schools who cannot sit still for 6 hours a day? What about ‘hyperactivity’? What if we just encouraged kids to move a lot more frequently? OFSTED are always banging on about ‘differentiation’. Why not differentiate our education system to meet the needs of many school students to move more in order to remain engaged.
What if the real disease of modern education is ‘hyper-immobility’ rather than hyperactivity? Maybe we should we be more concerned about the ones who do sit still all day?
It reminds me of another ‘disease’ which apparently many African slaves suffered from, called drapetomania; ‘a tendency to run away’. The cure was to beat the disease out of them.
Why do we blame kids for doing what they are programmed to do? And what are the consequences of pathologising normal child behaviour rather than accommodating and encouraging healthy development? I know it is inconvenient, but then if we want a ‘convenient’ life we really should not have children. Kids are not meant to be convenient. They are there to challenge us to provide a better environment for them to grow up in and ultimately to inherit a better Earth.
Rather than treating children as inconveniently active, we should be asking how we can tap into this incredible reservoir of energy. After all there are 7 billion humans on the planet now. With that kind of muscle power, backed by the enhanced intellectual functionality which healthy movement fosters, we might be able to solve some really meaningful challenges like the totally inequitable distribution of food and water on planet Earth, global warming, or even how to reach the stars.
The World Health Organisation recently suggested that 1 in 4 of us will suffer from mental illness at some stage in our lives. All the evidence points towards a correlation between frequent exercise and good mental health. Drug companies may not want to shout about this, but going outside and wandering around is still the best known treatment for depression. And now we know that sitting still will lead to our early physical demise.
If you are thirsty you do not deprive yourself of water. Why then do we deprive ourselves and our kids of something as fundamental as movement?
If you have ideas on how to re-introduce frequent movement into the lives of schoolchildren and employees I would like to hear from you. Please add your comments below and feel free to re-post this wherever you think it can help others to thrive. You might also like to check out the ‘We Can make You Thin Too’ seminar on 14th Sept.