Although some may ask why we need to walk or ride bikes if we have more advanced modes of transportation, evolutionarily speaking we are built to move. The bipedal motion of the Homo sapien species and the improved capacity to walk compared to our primate ancestors confirm our natural need for movement. In fact, walking is the ideal form of exercise, that is, if we actually had the time to do enough of it! As hunter gatherers, our survival and livelihood actually depended on our abilities to walk and run. If we didn’t sprint to kill prey or walk miles to locate edible foods, we, along with our tight-knit communities, would perish.
Unfortunately, for the sake of convenience and productivity (combined with human greed and egotism–why do we need segway tours when we have bikes?), physical activity has been engineered out of our lives. For several of us, we walk to our cars; drive our fuel-depleting cars to work (ironically, the cars are now burning all of the energy that our bodies should be!); take the elevator up to our work space (another technology that’s burning energy instead of us); sit for 8+ hrs at a confined desk for occasional bathroom breaks (this of course depends on how much liquid you drink in the first place. Drinking more water in fact brings two benefits –replenishing your system and providing an excuse to get moving..but I digress!). Where was I? Ok, we are at lunch, that’s if we even take a lunch break; we get back into our fuel-depleting cars to go home; and because of a long and exhausting day, we order take-out and sit on the couch before we begin the cycle again the next day. Of course this is a gross generalization (especially if you live in a major city and cook more often than the scenario presented), but the point is that the average person isn’t as active as they should be. Despite our seemingly productive society, this is not what human beings were built for. In fact, the rising rates of just about every chronic disease that you can think of serve as the burden of proof of the resonating impacts of industrialization and technological “advancements” (these surely aren’t advancements for our health!)
Physical activity has been shown to lower the risk of a host of diseases. Just to a name few (well actually more than a few!), take a peek at the list of facts below. This data is based on summarized research from the 2008 U.S. Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee (PAGAC) Report. STATISTICS ALERT: skip these facts to read the bottom line!
- Moderate amounts of physical activity result in a 20% lower risk of dying or becoming disabled because of heart disease. Meanwhile, higher volumes and intensities of physical activity showed a reduction in risk of 30%.
- Physically active individuals were 20% less likely to develop breast cancer than their sedentary counterparts.
- One study found that men who were more physically active in their occupation (sit only half of the time) had a 20% lower risk of prostate cancer diagnosis and mortality.
- Daily amounts of moderate to vigorous activity for 30 to 60 minutes have been shown to reduce colon cancer risk by 30%.
- Studies indicate that physically active individuals have a 20% reduction of risk for lung cancer in comparison to their inactive counterparts.
Reduction, 30%, risk, what!?! If you got lost in the language for a bit, the take home message is to get moving! Physical activity and the movement of your body also help to keep your digestive tract moving and promote the regularity of your AM and/or PM BMs (for those of you wondering what BM stands for, read Keep Things Moving: Part 1). Feeling a little blue? Keeping it moving likewise has been shown to improve mood and feelings of well-being.
Do you need more reasons we need to keep our bodies moving? Read the full 65-paged PAGAC report in it’s entirety! I have a strong inclination that some of you may not care to read this, but for any science/statistics geeks out there, read on!