Running a popular blog with a big readership has its downsides – the workload is heavy, the pressure to produce is high, the research is unending – but the advantages absolutely outweigh them. One of the best parts of all this is that I can give relatively massive amounts of exposure to causes/blogs/authors/thinkers/movements that I truly believe in. Selling books and gaining new readers isn’t everything, or even most of it; I got into this Primal health business because I wanted to change the world. We all care about something larger than ourselves, something that we wish others would care and think about, too. Well, I’m fortunate enough to be able to bring that wish to fruition on any given day, and today is one such day.
There’s something about these middle weeks of summer that feel less hurried, less brimming, more casual. At a certain point of the season, everybody remembers to relax a little and soak it in. The “lazy days” mood got me thinking about daydreaming – those lost minutes (maybe hours) in which we unintentionally slip into contemplation. Sometimes we end up floating into more serious ruminations. Other times, it’s just loose and happy reverie. We all do it – whether it’s looking out the window of our morning train, laying in the backyard hammock, or sitting (standing, rather!) at our work desk. It can often happen even if we’re trying to focus. Call it a lapse in discipline, but the brain seems to have its own agenda in those moments. Is there some purpose here beyond mere escapism? What is the brain really up to, and what could daydreaming have to do with well-being?
Over the past couple weeks, I’ve identified two deficits in our modern lives – the lack of sprinting and the lack of walking – and proposed a series of corresponding challenges to address (and hopefully fill) those deficits. Judging from the responses, I think these articles were successful. Today, I’m trying my hand at highlighting another problem, this time one that has nothing to do with physical fitness. In fact, it deals with perhaps the most physically inactive activity you’ll ever do: staring at a smartphone as the world gets on around you. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not anti-technology (duh), or even anti-smartphone (got one myself). I have the accumulated knowledge of the world in my pocket, and that’s pretty darn useful. I can find out where to get the best Greek food within five miles. I can bank, I can order flights to far off lands, I can check traffic, I can check shopping lists, read email, text, tweet, friend, defriend, like, oh, and make phone calls – all from the comfort of my 3.5 inch touch screen. That’s incredible. It also makes it really, really easy to get too comfortable and avoid actually experiencing the real, physical world.
Last week, I covered a glaring deficit in the lives of most modern people: the lack of walking. And it’s not just the “normal” people who aren’t walking enough; two thirds of those readers who took the poll get fewer than five hours of slow easy movement each week. Since everyone walks at least a few hundred steps a day, people are generally aware – among even the general population – that people just don’t walk anymore. They might not think that’s a true problem, but they’re definitely aware of it. Today, I want to discuss another glaring (in my eyes) deficit in our modern lives: the lack of sprinting.
At first glance, this might seem ludicrous. Sprinting? Sure, it’s a cool thing to do, and it’s good for us, but do you really expect everyone to line up at a track and sprint all out for 100 meters? Besides, is sprinting really essential, the way walking is essential? Because let’s face it: running at top speed for 10 to 15 seconds is an unrealistic expectation for most people, especially older folks. Many people just aren’t physically able to do it.
How many steps do you walk every day? Do you hit 10,000 steps, which experts recommend and is about 5 miles’ worth? Do you match the daily walking of a Hadza man or woman (8.3 or 5.5 km/day, respectively)? If you’re anything like the average American, you’re doing 5,117 steps a day, well shy of the 10,000 step mark and flirting dangerously with a formal sedentary classification. But we’re not alone (though we’re the worst). Of the four industrialized countries studied, not a single one found the mark. The Australians seem to come close, walking 9,695 steps a day. The Swiss follow with 9,650, and the Japanese are a bit further off with 7,168 steps per day. Contrast that with rural South African women, of whom just 11.9% can be classified as sedentary (under 5,000 steps a day) and for whom an average day means walking 10,594 steps (many of them done while carrying a load), or Amish aged 18-75 (PDF), who walk an average of 18,425 steps (men) or 14,196 steps (women) each day, and we’re all looking pretty darn sedentary.
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