Times have changed. In the last 100 years we have migrated from the fields and factories onto office chairs.
Modern business requires us to think more than we physically act. Our bodies have become secondary to the resource hungry pre-frontal cortex of our brains. We plan, we calculate, we predict, report and review. We talk more than we walk. The moving cog of the industrial age has been replaced by a silicon chip and with it our daily movement has declined.
Yet movement of the human body is an environmental constant of evolutionary design, and a requirement for health to flourish. The technologies we assumed would ‘free up our time’, have stopped us moving. Hence, evolution could even be said to be out of step with the current technological epoch.
Use it or lose it.
We all know that activity is good for our outward appearance – muscle definition and skin/hair/eye vitality. Recommendations for the wellbeing of your inner world are based on overwhelming evidence that activity is fundamental for our viscera. The heart, for example, is a muscle that needs to be exercised, otherwise it weakens. Combined with the lungs, the cardiovascular system provides oxygen and nutrients to every cell of our body. Each of our bodies’ systems needs movement to function optimally and each part is intrinsically interlinked. Hence our health suffers, both specifically and generally, if we don’t move.
Taking a mechanical view of the body, two key pumps that enable blood to get back to our hearts. The diaphragm and the calf pump. These pumps enable a body system called Venous Returns. Once the blood delivers its oxygen and nutrients to our feet, there is little pressure left in the system. The beat of our heart has no effect here. The venous system takes spent blood on a vertical climb up our body against the force of gravity. The initial pressure pump comes from our calves, its muscular action drawing blood up the veins where specially designed vascular units act like canal locks to stop backflow. The mechanical failure of one of these vascular locks causes blood pooling known as Varicose Veins.
The ratchet-like calf pump system raises the blood far enough for the influence of the diaphragm to take control. The diaphragm, a huge billowing dome of a muscle, creates large differential pressures, driving our venous blood back to the heart.
With Venous Returns, evolution had settled on this form of vascular piping driven by two key pumping stations as the best solution. But body movement is required to drive these pumps at the optimal level for wellbeing. Physical inactivity at work can have a negative effect on Venous Returns by hampering the influence of these two body pumps.
I know first-hand that juggling the priorities of everyday life often-mean exercise takes a back seat. So here are some tips to easily fit in what your body needs.
To activate your calf pump: try taking the stairs not the lift, get off transport a stop early or go for a brisk 10-minute walk on your lunch break each day. My life-hack tip – calf pumps. 10 calf raises an hour while at your desk.
To activate your diaphragm there are many breathing techniques to choose from. I urge you to give them a try! My life-hack tip – exhale all your breath then breathe in through your nose deep into your belly.. Perform this cycle 5 times an hour.
The essentials to remember:
Our bodies have evolved to function with movement.
If you are inactive the body is less efficient and health declines.
Find an optimal balance between static thinking time and the physical actions your body requires for health to flourish.