A few months ago a good friend of of mine died. James had Motor Neurone Disease (MND), a severely life-shortening condition that progressively damages parts of the nervous system. This leads to the loss of muscular control, making activities such as gripping, walking, speaking, swallowing and breathing (all things most taken for granted) increasingly difficult. Eventually these activities become impossible.
There is currently no cure for MND.
Events like this stop you in your tracks. They make you take a long hard look at what really matters. They make you realise what you have to give thanks for. MND robs people (both sufferers and families of sufferers) of so much.
For years I have taken my ability to move my body for granted. Most of us do. As adults we forget the sheer joy of movement so beautifully expressed by young children. We sometimes look at their boundless exuberance and need for movement as them being ‘fidgety’ at best, or having some form of attention deficit disorder at worse. “Why can’t you just sit still for a while?”
As babies we constantly move. We twist, we turn, we rock. We reach out to touch this new strange world around us. This is how we learn.
Then comes propulsion. We lift ourselves up and we crawl. This very act is the foundation of our movement for the rest of our lives. It builds our muscles, focuses our nervous systems, it trains our bodies for what is to come.
We crawl, we climb, we walk, we run, we climb higher stuff, we run some more. Kids seem unable to not run.
Then we go to school and are sat down and punished for moving. We are told to ‘stop running in the corridors’. We are told to ‘Get down from there!’ and ‘Sit still!’
Whilst I understand the need for education and safety, I dislike the way movement becomes demonised.
This stays with us through out most of lives. Movement is a luxury, frivolous, something to feel guilty about trying to fit into our busy schedule.
When we do move our bodies it is often to play a sport. Our focus becomes the outcome of the activity not on the movements themselves. The element of ‘play’ has often disappeared.
If ever there was a time to reclaim our sense of wonder at the miracle that is our own movement it is now.
In a survey looking at activity in office environments, it was shown that ‘[a]lmost half of women (45%) and almost two fifths of men (37%) working in UK offices spend less than 30 minutes a day walking around at work’
Add into this the fact that many people commute by car or public transport, which usually involves more sitting.
When we finally haul ourselves home we are tired and for many of us we just want to eat and drop to the sofa to relax. For many this means a total of 10 hours or more of inactivity in our waking day.
This inactivity is literally killing us.
In a recent study it was shown ‘that twice as many deaths may be attributable to lack of physical activity compared with the number of deaths attributable to obesity’.
One of the largest studies to date on the effects of sitting found that compared with those who sat the least, people who sat the longest had a:
- 112% increase in risk of diabetes
- 147% increase in cardiovascular events
- 90% increase in death caused by cardiovascular events
- 49% increase in death from any cause
Finding a solution to this will be different for every individual. Whether it is using a ‘stand-up’ workstation, taking regular movement breaks, walking to work, or ditching the lift for the stairs, what is evident is that we need to move more.
Movement is medicine.
Whatever your ability, whatever your range of motion, use it. Make time for that hand in hand walk with a loved one. Dance like there’s no one watching. Run for the sheer joy of knowing you can. Climb that hill to get into perspective what is really important.
For those who would like to find out more about MND or who wish to donate towards helping sufferers and carers please visit http://www.mndassociation.org/
or MND Australia (James’ homeland)