How sitting determines our lives

This first post describes what this blog is all about and why I have started it. I also want to explain how my scientific study with sitting as a health relevant issue changed my view on physical activity. Enjoy!


The modern Man 2.0 remains seated

It seems like we have developed concurrently into a whole new species: from Homo sapiens to Homo sedentarius. This term is being used more and more frequently. It is equally as appropriate as troublesome. But what does it entail? The term Homo sedentarius consists of the Latin words for Man (“homo”) and sit (“sedere”) together. This makes it possible to genuinely describe modern Man 2.0. If the most prominent feature of Homo sapiens is reason (from the Latin word “sapiens,” which is as much as rational, perceptive, clever), the average citizen of industrialized societies describes nothing more striking than his insatiable desire for comfort, living horizontally and looking for each available seat.

Thus, our lives are full of daily grinds that keep us seated, whether in the car, in the bus, in the office, on the home sofa, in the cinema or with friends in the pub. Nothing determines our everyday life as much as changing from a seat to the next. In public transport, we crave for every free seat and understand each empty chair not only as an invitation but also as a direct request to make ourselves comfortable.


How we have forgotten how to walk

First of all, this is, of course, only a statement and a description of our lifestyle. You could be thinking right now, we’re just pretty lazy, that’s no secret! Nonetheless, to get there, we have grown way beyond ourselves. The cleverest minds and the most creative ones have produced a technological development that is so fast that even our parents sometimes cannot keep pace with. But how progressive is this progression to Homo sedentarius or is it perhaps even a step back?

200,000 years ago, our early ancestors wrote the first sentences of our success story in the vast steppes of Africa. The famous hunters and gatherers moved through the country as nomads, always looking for a place to sleep and for adequate food. Their lives were marked by moving from A to B, hunting prey, collecting berries, roots, or other plants. That is, their lives took place mainly on two legs and not as nowadays on our buttocks. About 15,000 years ago, the nomadic hunters and gatherers became farmers and livestock herders with a fixed residence. Agriculture became part of modern Man’s history. But also then, life became physically demanding. Every day in the fields and pastures, calories over calories were burnt gradually around. But then, just over 250 years ago, the industrial revolution changed our lives so drastically that among former athletes, couch-potatos are all what we remain with. The question still remains: progress or regress?


Are we sitting-sick?

This question cannot be answered with a simple Either-Or. Nevertheless, I would like to emphasize at this point the argument for this question, which probably does not open up for many. By the end of the day, we fly to the moon, sometimes to Mars, we can cure countless diseases, travel through the country in high-speed trains and share our knowledge in the unlimited space of the Internet. Who could even think a second of a step backwards?

But there is at least one aspect through which we can learn a lot from our early ancestors and that is our natural urge to move and our natural way to deal with our body. Over nearly 200,000 years, our body has adapted to a life in motion. But in our industrialized societies, physical activity has become a secondary issue. This leads to an enormous mismatch between our genes and our lifestyle. The implicitness with which our life is determined by seats is deceptive because the health risks of a sedentary lifestyle are enormous. It was not for nothing that in some magazines one could read that sitting was the new smoking. And indeed, long sitting seems to be connected with the most important human diseases of our time and even with shortening our precious lifetime.


Who writes here and why?

I am Vivien, a graduate psychologist with a strong passion for sports and activity. After my psychology studies, I engaged directly into research. I had always had the desk chair firmly controlling me. Although I could spend some time during my studies intermittently making a few movements here and there, I came by the time of my promotion to the Homo sedentarius status. Of course, I still managed to do a little sport on most days after work, but in reality it was only to reassure my conscience.

In the search for a suitable topic for my doctoral thesis, I came into contact with the subject “sitting” for the first time. I was surprised how bad sitting could actually be for quite athletic people. And I was also surprised that there was only so little research and especially such short-term research work in this area. From then on, the idea has not left my head anymore and has become even a vocation out of a purely professional occupation: life is too precious to be easily handed over to the seat cushions in this world. Our body needs exercise just as much as it does for the air we breathe and for the food required for our energy intake. No other basic need is treated as negatively as our natural urge for movement. And that is why I am writing this blog to share my experiences and knowledge and promote a little more movement into our sedentary society.


My first book

By the way, I wrote a book on “Sitting”, which will be published in June 2017 in Germany. In this one, I look at our seating habits from an evolutionary perspective, showing why we are sitting so much in the first place and what health consequences this has on us. Besides, I also give lots of suggestions on how to get out of the seat trap and regain our everyday life activity.

Diesen Beitrag gibt es auch in: deDeutsch

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