In today’s fast-paced world, we are struggling to find time for ourselves and consequently our health and general wellbeing have become somewhat compromised. Too often, we come to this realization only when we hit a bump — mental or physical — in the road that we call life. Physical and mental problems, to an extent, are inextricably linked with lack of physical activity. Our bodies are naturally designed for activity; problems are inevitable if we do not follow this natural design. Physical inactivity is not a human quality even in the modern society. So how do we ensure our wellbeing given the demands and stresses of our busy, modern life where healthy living is frequently overlooked?
Modern life is massively comfort-oriented, involving a lot less manual labour that characterised the life of our ancestors. Technological advances have made our lives more comfortable and continue to protect us from the hardships that were a feature of life before the modern era. Moreover, ‘C.R.A.P’ (Carbonated, Refined, Artificial and Processed) foods leave us overfed, starved of true nourishment and in less than optimum health. As we move further away from the human lifestyle that evolved in nature, we are increasingly unable to maximise our health, which has a ripple effect on other areas of our lives such as productivity and/or happiness. In order to live a better life we need to shed the habits of our sedentary lives and prioritise our wellness. Physical exercise is the most effective, and arguably natural, way to achieve this. Unfortunately, including physical activity for healthy living in modern society is plagued with barriers.
Modern life is a multifaceted compendium of evolving technology and social media that ensures constant communication in which the mind is constantly engaged and working; the body, on the other hand, is not. Being continuously connected in this way has been linked with higher stress levels, and leads to exhaustion but not one that is beneficial; instead is harmful because it takes time and motivation away from meaningful activities and interactions that help our mental and physical health.
There also seems to be a muddled attitude regarding prioritising exercise. Particularly for women of today, who have responsibilities and pressures at work and home, social obligations and professional demands often take precedence. The first thing to be eliminated from their daily routine is exercise. And while one might wrongly surmise these daily responsibilities as a form of exercise, it is important to remember that house chores or mental exhaustion at the desk is not a substitute for physical activity, though it can be incorporated into the former to accrue some level of dividends for ones wellbeing.
It is imperative that there should be an analysis of the relevance of exercise for health, and our lifestyle choices and priorities regarding such. Exercise brings many benefits to our lives. It increases energy levels, improves muscle strength, can help maintain a healthy weight, improves brain function and is good for the heart, lowers the risk of developing many non-communicable diseases like type 2 diabetes, enhances the immune system, reduces the likelihood of developing some degenerative bone diseases, enhances learning, memory and cognition, and has somewhat of a quantifiable anti-ageing effect. Exercise not only makes one physically fitter but it also improves mental health and general sense of wellbeing. Physical activity stimulates the release of endorphins, which make one feel better and more relaxed. These in turn improve the mood and lower stress levels. Exercise can help prevent and treat mental illnesses like depression. Physical activity can help one sleep better, reduce stress levels, cope with frustration, give a sense of achievement, and provide some important ‘me time’, all of which help with depression.
All of the above is enough to elucidate the importance of physical activity for our wellbeing. We are stuck with these bodies for the long haul so it is important that focussed and structured exercise should be considered essential and included in our lives as an important part of our daily routines by dedicating a fixed time slot for it that social obligations shouldn’t be able to distract from. There is need to introduce a culture of exercise as it is a sure-fire, natural resource for better productivity and healthier lifestyle and so it should not merely be treated as a way to counteract our sedentary lifestyle, but rather, as a requirement for a happy and healthy living. HH
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