Researchers now blame much of the obesity epidemic on the decline in everyday movement (called incidental exercise) over the last 30 years. In other words, our lives have become sedentary. We sit more. We move less. Is it any wonder we've become a bit "hefty"? Here's my take on this issue ...
As I read about the debate on the role of soft drinks, fast food, fruit juice and confectionery in the obesity epidemic, I keep wondering why we’re not focussing more on the decline in daily movement (called "incidental exercise" by researchers) that’s happened over the last 30 years. In my opinion, there's no doubt that our lives have gradually - almost imperceptibly become sedentary. Put simply, we sit more every day and do less physical effort, so we burn less kilojoules (calories) and put on weight.
Compare the generations
Our parents and grandparents didn’t sweat at gyms or jog around the park or spend time on treadmills. They were naturally active in the course of their daily lives – women around the house and garden, men in their occupations, most of which were manual.
Women expended loads of kilojoules/calories just doing the family washing (using a copper to boil up the washing water up until the 1960s) and drying (using a wringer and hanging out on the line). They cooked up a storm by hand – without the blenders, choppers, electric bread makers, rice cookers and assorted gadgets we have in the kitchen today. They didn’t have the personal army of cleaners, ironers and gardeners to get through the household chores. Even though it was hard physical work (and I for one wouldn't want to return to those days), it kept them fit and trim.
Walking, not driving
Before the creation of supermarkets and huge shopping centres that require - even demand - a car, we walked to the corner shop for groceries. Every day. Remember the old-fashioned trolley our grans pulled behind them?
Before families could afford two cars, children walked or rode their bicycles to school and activities like tennis lessons on the weekend or ballet after school or swimming or football training. I’ll bet most baby boomers (and I’m one of them born between 1945 and 1960) can recount how we built cubby houses in our back yards, bicycled to the beach some 10 kms away and played in the local neighbourhood until dark! It was safe to roam the streets then.
Gadgets do the physical chores
Today we have gadgets that eliminate any need to move - remotes can turn on the TV, garage door, air conditioner, window shutters, venetians or awnings, and even move the curtains on their track.
We have petrol-driven lawnmowers and garden trimmers (whipper-snippers) that take away much of the hard yakka (work) of days gone by.
We have blowers that have replaced the rake and broom and do the job of tidying up the drive way in under two minutes. But require little of our energy.
We drive our car to the local car wash station rather than wash it ourselves by hand. We pay others to do the work we used to do ourselves.
The bottom line
Technology has reduced the amount of ‘moving’ from our daily lives. Great creature comfort but we sit more and have become couch potatoes! Is it any wonder there’s an obesity problem?