Ryan Martin: We were born to be wild, so sitting about tamely is bad for our health

Humans weren’t designed to sit all day – our ancestors evolved to spend their days hunting, foraging and building fires to survive. We were born to move and our increasingly inactive lifestyles are having serious implications on our long-term health and wellbeing.
Edinburgh Leisure water based classEdinburgh Leisure water based class
Edinburgh Leisure water based class

When you consider how much of our day can be spent sitting – sitting on the bus to work, sitting at a desk all day, sitting on the sofa watching tv in the evening – it’s really no surprise that 33 per cent of Scottish adults aren’t meeting the national physical activity guidelines.

Modern day society, with its office jobs, labour-saving technology and over-reliance on mobile phones, has made us more sedentary than ever before. Now we can do almost ­everything, from our weekly food shop, to socialising, to banking, with the click of a button from the comfort of our sofa.

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I’m sure you’ve heard stories from your parents and grandparents about how they lived far more active lives back in ‘the good old days’. They walked round to their friends’ houses instead of sending them a WhatsApp message, they washed their dishes by hand rather than simply sticking them in the dishwasher and children played outside instead of sitting inside on tablets or games consoles.

Incorporating more movement into our days can boost our energy, help us to lose weight and reduce our risk of developing health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. It can improve how we feel and, what’s more, it can be fun!

Here at Edinburgh Leisure, we are a charity on a mission to help everyone in Edinburgh to lead happier, healthier and more active lives. We are ­passionate about the positive impact sport and physical activity can have on people’s lives, so we are proud to support people in the ­community who face barriers to being physically active.

Back in 2016, we started developing our Get Active programme for people who needed a helping hand to introduce physical activity back into their lives. Since then, we’ve seen a huge increase in demand from people who haven’t exercised in a while and we’re now delighted to be supporting around 400 people at 32 low level physical activity classes across the city every week.

These include Active Dance, a sociable way to get active to music without even realising you’re exercising, and Active Aqua, a fun pool-based class delivered at the shallow end that uses the resistance of the water to work the whole body.

Moira, one of our Get Active participants, told us that for a number of years she had been letting her busy lifestyle get in the way of her health. When she was eventually diagnosed with diabetes, it gave her the nudge she needed to make some changes and lose weight.

She said: “I started attending a Get Active class at Leith Victoria and quickly got the exercise bug. I kept finding that I wanted to do more, so I started other classes too. Now all the classes are just part of my weekly ­routine and I find that the more active I am, the better I feel.”

She told us that she’s enjoyed all the benefits that come with a more active lifestyle. “The difference is night and day. Before starting Get Active, I felt sluggish and couldn’t be bothered leaving the house but now I love going to the gym! I have more energy, I’ve lost weight, my mood has improved and I’ve met lots of new people.”

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As a health development officer, I’m used to working with people who are looking to weave more movement back into their lives. If this sounds like something you want to do, here are some simple suggestions to get you going.

Use your lunch break to go for a short walk, wash your car instead of taking it to the car wash – you’ll get a full body workout and save pennies – or while you’re watching TV, do some squats, sit ups or seated exercises during the ad breaks

You can also stick music on while you’re cleaning and have a boogie – you’ll burn extra calories and have far more fun – or arrange a standing or walking meeting – research has shown that they help to get those ­creative juices flowing!

And, instead of meeting friends for coffee, buy coffees and go for a walk together

So, there’s no need to go full caveman and start scouring the woods for prey. Simply start by making small changes and you might find yourself wanting more, like Moira! If you would like to have more information on our Get Active programme, contact Ryan 
Martin at [email protected] or 0131 458 2130 or 07808890498.

Ryan Martin is an active communities health development officer with Edinburgh Leisure.

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