The chances are you're sitting down whilst reading this, a position from which the Internet age allows you to do just about anything. From personal banking, to sending a message to your next-door neighbour, you rarely need to move a muscle. It's probable that even if you don't shop by net or over the phone you'll drive to the store and park within a few metres.
So how detrimental is the convenience factor to your body bearing in mind we evolved into (and now unfortunately from) hunter-gatherers?
In terms of preventive health, simply putting down the remote control and getting off the sofa rates in the same category as stopping smoking and remembering to strap on your seatbelt. From heart disease to osteoporosis and diabetes to back problems, much of the illnesses we once associated with old age are actually due to decreasing activity levels.
Around 60% of us do not meet the minimum standards for physical activity, i.e. 30 minutes of moderate movement daily. The good news is that a recent survey by exercise physiologists at Loughborough University revealed this 30 minute threshold does not have to be continuous but can be accumulated via numerous short bouts. If visits to the health club are a problem due to work deadlines or family commitments fear not, you can still incorporate enough exercise within a working day to make a difference to your health.
It's not necessary to hit the gym for an hour long workout as engaging in what is referred to as non-exercise activity thermogenesis or NEAT for short could be the perfect answer. This label was originated by Dr James Levine of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, who in 2005 published results of his detailed analysis of metabolism. Dr Levine was trying to uncover why it is that two people can eat an identical diet but one might gain weight and the other doesn't. He tracked not only food consumption but also activity. He used motion-tracking underwear to detect even the smallest movements, enabling him to notice that those people who don't gain weight move more.
Amazingly, those who didn't put on weight during the study were also the same people who, without even thinking about it, felt an urge to be active - to take the stairs, for instance, rather than the lift. He found that the weight gainers sat for two hours longer each day, on average, than those who didn't put on pounds. The great news is, in the NEAT world, little things add up to big changes.
Since we can't all give up our jobs and take up a physical vocation what's required is some creative thinking to introduce more movement to your daily routine. Here are a few ideas to get you started...
During the advertisement breaks hit the floor for some sit-ups or jog on the spot to relieve the boredom and keep your metabolic rate on a high.
Saturday Night Fever
Take dance lessons with a friend/partner or simply move the coffee table out of the centre of the lounge, turn the music up loud and go with the flow. Let your hair down and try to interpret the moods/lyrics of the song. (Might be worth checking the house is empty before adopting this tactic!)
Getting busy in the garden is a good workout, so try planting something soon. Who knows you might even end up eating the fruits of your labours.
Before tucking into lunch (a light salad with calorie reduced dressing, of course) try a little sculpting for the arms. Place you hands on the front of the seat fingers facing forward, feet about 18 inches in front and knees bent. By bending the elbows lower the backside down below the level of the seat then straighten the arms to return up.
Hide the TV remote control so you have to get out of your seat to switch channels. Each time you leave, stand up and sit down 5 times, then the same when you return.
If you are confined to a desk all day you could still seek the 6-pack. Sitting upright with a long neck and shoulder blades drawn back, lightly grip the edges of the chair for support. Pulling the abdominals, in slowly lift your knees towards your chest.
How much time do you spend on hold during telephone calls? Try doing some squats the next time you are parked on a switchboard.
At the office is it possible to go face-to-face instead of telephoning or sending an email to your colleagues?
Next time you're waiting for your photocopies put both hands on the sturdy frame of the machine, move your feet well back and try some slow incline press-ups to tone the chest, shoulders and arms.
Out & About
Shop 'Til You Drop
Walk briskly around the shopping centre, ensuring you cover the whole footprint, prior to stopping to look in the shop windows and/or purchase. In addition, take the stairs instead of the lift/escalator.
Go To The Dogs
Take the dog for more frequent walks.
Try to find new ways to play actively with the children. From football to frisbee, hopscotch to hide-and-seek, you can make a serious difference to both your energy levels and your relationship with a little quality time. If you've not got any kids, borrow your neice/nephew!
Could you leave your car at home for that little errand?
How quickly can you do the grocery shopping? Ensure you go up and back down every aisle (even if you don't need anything in those particular sections). Pack your own bags and carry them to the car yourself. If you must use the trolley for this take the trolley back to the store rather than leaving it at a collection point in the car park.
Going Back In Time
If the weather's too miserable to take a walk outside, visit a museum. They tend to be pretty large establishments so while you learn a little history you also lose a few pounds.
At The Carwash
Forget the automatic carwash and lay off the valet you can do it just as well and enjoy burning calories at the same time.
Get it Straight
When driving, try not to slouch into your comfortable bucket seat but rather sit tall, pull the navel towards the spine and draw the shoulder blades back and down. Hold this position for s log as you can try to build up the time, as this is super for toning the deeper muscles that lead to a more efficient spine.
To tone the pectoral muscle and give an instant lift to the chest place the hands at 9.15 on the steering wheel with the elbows slightly bent and squeeze inwards holding for 5 seconds.
Put Your Foot Down
When stationary, place your feet on the floor rather than on the pedals. Without anything else moving press the heels into the floor lifting the weight away from the buttocks. Again aim for 5 seconds of minimum tension, 3 sets being ideal.