I was listening to a podcast today and the topic was breast feeding. The guest kept bringing up how science keeps talking about the benefits of breast feeding and that the wording was incorrect. She pointed out there are no benefits to breast feeding. Breast feeding is the norm. The other options are substandard and should be measured against breast feeding. This made me think about moving and exercise in the same way.We are built to move. There is even a recommended number of steps we should all take now. I think it’s 10,000 or roughly three miles a day. I say that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Moving covers more than just walking, although walking is an important movement!
We should be lifting, carrying, running, jumping, crawling, throwing, climbing, and on and on. These are all normal human movements. Performing them regularly doesn’t provide us with health benefits. Performing them regularly is necessary to be healthy.
What does that really mean though? We have accepted our current level of health and performance as the human norm but it’s not. Our ancestors were far more capable physically, and likely even mentally, than we are now. We are smaller in physical stature and science is starting to show that our brains are smaller too.
Some of this is certainly due to a shift to agriculture, the archeological record is black and white here. But we also live a life of convenience now. Instead of walking to go find or hunt food, now I drive to the grocery store. I don’t have to collect water, I can turn on a faucet. I don’t even have to cook my food any more if I don’t want to. On an even more imperceptible level, thanks to climate control, I barely have to regulate my body temperature.
Blah blah blah Ben… What are you saying? Words shape our perceptions. If I talk about the benefits of exercise, that means that I accept inactivity as the human norm. But if I talk about the health consequences of not exercising instead, physical activity takes on a different meaning in my mind.
We don’t talk about the benefits of not smoking. Smoking isn’t a natural human behavior. Instead we talk about the harmful effects of smoking. We accept that we shouldn’t be smoking and that by smoking we accept the damage done to our bodies. Maybe it’s time we look at exercise the same way. We are built to move and not moving does us harm.