We Are Hardwired To Move – have we forgotten a basic human instinct?

Movement is an essential building block for human health. The evidence is clear – an active lifestyle is associated with a plethora of health benefits; whether it’s the immediate mental clarity and exhilaration following a long run, or the long-term improvements in cardiovascular health by committing to an extra two thousand steps per day. And let us not forget that daily physical activity, in whatever form it takes, is powerfully effective at preventing and reducing the future risk of chronic disease. 


Movement plays an important contribution in maintaining physical health, mental health and wellbeing. So why is it that in less than two generations, physical activity has dropped by 30% in some parts of the world? 


According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare more than half of the Australian population aged 18-64 fail to meet the physical activity recommendations. And to make matters worse, the World Health Organisation reports that a staggering 81% of adolescents worldwide are considered insufficiently active – a pessimistic outlook for growth, developmental and overall health outcomes during the early, formative years of life.


This downward trend in physical activity is largely due to the rise in technology usage around the world. We spend more hours in front of the television, playing games on the ipad, scrolling through social media and typing away at our computers than we ever have before … and it doesn’t stop there! The introduction of home technologies and appliances, such as the microwave, refrigerator, and clothes dryer have replaced manual labour with convenience, while the ease and accessibility of high-speed public transport, cars, and Uber have led to a decline in walking and a greater increase sedentary time.


It’s safe to say that most of the modern world is built on automation, productivity and very little physical exertion. 


In times like these we must remind ourselves that the human body is born to move and has evolved to perform a range of complex movements like walking, running, jumping, crawling, climbing, dancing … and the list goes on! Humans are not designed to sit for long hours slouched over an office desk. 


In the wise words of Daniel Wolpert, a world-renowned neuroscientist:

“we have a brain for one reason and one reason only –
and that’s to produce adaptable and complex movements”


Although, the term ‘physical activity’ and ‘movement’ should not be confused with ‘exercise’ – and hence this article is not a prescription for slogging yourself at the gym every day. Beyond exercise, any form of physical activity throughout the day has immense health benefits to optimise sleep, improve mental health, control weight, boost cognition, enhance cardiovascular and digestive health, reduce stress, combat disease and encourage physical longevity. 


A mix of moderate-to-vigorous activity and light-intensity activity is ideal to reap the benefits, while one should focus on reducing the amount of time spent inactive.


Here are our top tips for boosting your average daily movement:

  • Get off the bus one stop earlier and walk the extra distance to work or home to increase your daily step count
  • Choose the stairs instead of the lift to get your heart rate up
  • Stand up every 30 minutes at work to improve circulation 
  • Plan ‘active’ weekends with family or friends to incorporate a dynamic range of neuromuscular movements like hiking, rock-climbing, dancing or yoga
  • Stretch for 20 minutes before bed or while you watch your favourite TV show to increase flexibility and range of motion
  • Go for a brisk stroll around the block during your lunch break to maximise lung capacity
  • Go on ‘active’ dates with your significant other to share the health benefits – why not try exploring a new part of the city or take a romantic evening stroll
  • And most importantly, find a type of physical activity that brings you great joy – tango, sunset strolls, a new gym class, karate, tennis, pilates … you name it!

Here at Elanora Medical, our knowledgable health practitioners can help you incorporate more movement into your life with a personalised physical activity program. At the end of the day, we are more likely to stay active if we find ways that are congruent with our lifestyle and health needs. 


This is where lifestyle medicine works it’s magic!