Your Roomba Is Sucking The Life Out Of You! – Here’s What You Can Do About It

Nowadays we have so many modern conveniences that automate household chores which, not too long ago, used to require physical labor (like vacuuming). And that’s great! It frees up our time to be more productive or enjoy more relaxation time. But the downside to no longer using our bodies for physical labor is … well that we’re no longer using our bodies for physical labor! Movement is something that the human body thrives on. We function better when we get a baseline level of motion and exercise.

When muscles don’t get used they very quickly begin to atrophy (shrink), blood flow decreases and clots can form, joints become stiff, and we generally feel tired overall. Lack of exercise can even lead to depression due to certain “feel good” chemicals not being produced in the brain while other neurotoxic chemicals are created instead. On the other hand, the more you use your body in a healthy way the stronger your muscles and bones will become and the better you will move, think, and feel. The body truly does operate under the principle of “use it or lose it.”

So I highly recommend that you invest at least some of the time saved through modern automation and put it towards working out in some way. On the bright side, rather than being forced to do physical chores that you might hate doing, you get to decide how you want to allocate and spend time on movement. Pick exercise routines that you enjoy doing and that you will still be able to perform years and even decades from now. Consistency is very important for true long term health and a better quality of life.

When it comes to your healthcare routines, being consistent is actually more important than being perfect. And most of us can find time throughout the day to get a little more movement in, if we choose to.

Everyone wants to enjoy life, but it’s hard to enjoy life when you’re sick and unhealthy. Lack of movement is a surefire way of becoming sick and unhealthy, sooner rather than later. Increasing your daily movement doesn’t necessarily have to mean partaking in structured exercise or playing sports, any minor activity that encourages you to be active and using your muscles and joints counts!

 

The Cost Of Keeping Your Home NEAT

Although modern conveniences like robo-vacuums, dishwashers, and washing machines help us keep our homes neat, they greatly reduce our participation in “NEATs.” Coined by Dr. James Levine with the Mayo Clinic, “N.E.A.T.” stands for “Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis.” This represents any form of movement that isn’t technically exercise but has similar benefits as exercise because of the fact that we are using our bodies in a functional way, throughout the day. This includes using our joints and muscles in a variety of movements, increasing our heart rate, burning calories, etc. Basically anything that requires some amount of physical exertion, like household chores, can be considered a NEAT.

As a species we used to be highly active hunter-gatherers and continued to maintain a high level of movement when we later transitioned into an agricultural society. But as industrialization happened and human technology kept advancing we began to move less and less. Our bodies are designed to move however, so much so that we function better when we move enough and function poorly when we don’t.

Our modern sedentary lifestyle, which encourages things like working at a computer, sitting at home binge watching Netflix or Disney+, and playing with our smartphones or video games for hours at a time can be detrimental to the long term health of our bodies, especially if we do these things without taking regular movement breaks. Having poor posture and ergonomics can further exacerbate the problem. A minimum amount of exercise and increased motion can go a long way to counteracting the negative effects while also allowing us to enjoy these perks of modern living.

 

Being Sedentary All The Time Is More Harmful Than You May Realize

Staying still for too long causes you to lose all electrical activity in your muscles which leads to a series of harmful metabolic effects. Blood pressure increases while calorie burning rate and insulin effectiveness drops. The reduction in insulin sensitivity increases blood glucose levels and the risk for Type 2 Diabetes and obesity. When sugar is not used up as energy to power muscles, the body converts it to fat.

What determines if a person is at a healthy weight or not partially has to do with how much they move throughout the day, which includes exercise but perhaps more importantly how much they engage in NEATs. This NY Times article highlights how an individual who makes even minor movements all day, every day (like fidgeting or rocking in their chair) is more likely to be a healthy weight compared to someone with a similar body type and diet but who doesn’t instinctively move much at all.

Also relevant is the fact that when we don’t get enough movement, “the enzymes responsible for breaking down lipids and triglycerides — for ‘vacuuming up fat out of the bloodstream,’ — plunge, which in turn causes the levels of good (HDL) cholesterol to fall” as well, according to the same article.

From diabetes to blood pressure and cholesterol, there are so many health markers that are affected by movement, or lack thereof. Finding ways to add more daily movement into your life can help you manage these and many other conditions.

 

OK so maybe automated vacuums “sucking the life out of you” was an exaggeration, they’re not quite this bad / Image credit: MGM

 

Power Up With Daily Movement

In my previous blog post I refer to exercise as a “buff”, which in gaming terms basically means a power-up that improves your character in some way and makes you stronger. It truly is a real life buff and it’s never a waste of time to do any form of exercise, whether it’s intentional high intensity exercise or incidental small everyday movements. Both are good at counteracting an otherwise sedentary lifestyle, especially when done throughout the day.

Even something as simple as getting up from your seat every 30-60 minutes to take a movement break can significantly help reduce the negative effects of prolonged sitting. Movement is great for the body but we don’t get enough of it anymore because of the conveniences of modern life.

 

Look Forward To The Future, But Remember The Past

Do bear in mind that things that are considered new and novel inventions and conveniences by one generation tend to become regarded as a regular part of life by the next generation. This is a normal byproduct of industrialization and modernization. Individual humans tend to have a short generational memory, so new things and ways of life become taken for granted. For instance, motor vehicles are a relatively new invention that didn’t exist a couple of lifetimes ago but have greatly reduced our engagement in NEATs. We have come to rely on our cars a great deal and no one can imagine living without them.

Smartphones and internet based services are a more contemporary example of the great extent to which people have reduced their NEATs compared to previous generations, without even realizing it. We don’t even need to get up from our seats anymore to address countless issues that in the past would have required us to move and be more active.

I’m old enough to remember having to walk to the library and then actively search through the bookshelves to get any research done; having to walk to the mailbox or post office after manually handwriting a letter in order to send someone a written message; having to walk to the store to pick up and compare physical retail boxes whenever I wanted to buy PC games and hardware, back before Steam and Newegg existed; and even having to walk to my parent’s living room just to make or receive a phone call because that’s where the landline was located.

Incidental movements like these add up throughout the course of a day but the need to perform many of them has been completely removed from our lives and replaced with a few clicks, taps, or swipes on a computer or smartphone.

 

Boomers faction from Fallout New Vegas / Image Credit: Obsidian Entertainment | Reddit – u/practicalsurrealist

 

OK Boomer

If it sounds like I’m yearning for bygone days, that couldn’t be further from the truth. No one is advocating that society should revert back to a time when modern technology didn’t exist. Although this video by Dr. Mike Evans does make a strong case for occasionally mixing in low tech with our high tech lives. In short, he recommends intentionally making your life a little harder by taking the stairs instead of the elevator or parking farther away than you need to.

Having been born in the early 80s and growing up in a time of rapid and life-altering technological advances, I do feel like I’m qualified to comment on the huge changes that have occurred just in my lifetime. We have gained so much but have also lost some things too. As Dr. Evans describes in the video, an easier and more comfortable life isn’t necessarily a better or healthier life (as an example, slouching in your seat may be comfortable but it’s awful for you!).

That being said, technology is great and I’m all for anything that makes our lives easier, like the Roomba or home smart speakers (I love being able to switch the lights on or off using my Google Home devices without having to get out of bed!). But my concern is that people seem to not even be aware of just how much movement their body actually needs, because we have collectively forgotten how much movement our ancestors actually got on a regular, daily basis.

Subsequent generations continuously become complacent to the new “normal”, as if this is how humanity has always lived! We don’t know any better and we have no way of appreciating our generational loss of movement because most of us living in developed countries have never had to experience the kinds of physically demanding lives people experienced in the past. In many cases, we’re not even experiencing as much daily physical exertion as our parents or grandparents had to.

When my generation was growing up, we didn’t have access to convenient food delivery services like DoorDash or Grubhub. Back in my day we had to track down our food on our own, navigating the outdoor wilderness of our respective concrete jungles, traveling uphill both ways! But seriously, the point is that the more we utilize apps, tech, and services that eliminate our need to get off our butts, the more we need to reintroduce movement in other ways. Again, I would highly suggest reviewing this 4 min video by Dr. Mike Evans explaining why we should choose to make our lives a little harder from time to time.

It’s important to understand that the way humans live now is nowhere near the way our predecessors used to live. Human physiology has not kept up with all the constant changes to our living conditions. The human body is built to move frequently, not sit in a chair or couch all day. Although our functional need for movement hasn’t changed much, our opportunities and requirements for movement in day to day life has decreased significantly.

 

Grow Older And Wiser, Not Older And Weaker

Since I’m now able to accomplish my daily tasks more efficiently than ever before, I’m certainly happy I no longer have to do many of the tedious, tiring, and time consuming things that automation saves us from. But many people today don’t seem to understand or remember that society as a whole was healthier and fitter back when we were forced to move more as a normal part of daily living. In fact, many people nowadays consider it normal and inevitable that they will get severely out of shape as they get older! This doesn’t have to be the case.

It’s true that once we hit our thirties and forties, a natural decline in health and vitality is to be expected. How steep of a decline we will experience is mostly a matter of how well we take care of our bodies every day. All of us seem to have lost the frame of reference as to how badly and how quickly we should be losing our youthfulness.

I attribute this to the fact that we are all constantly challenging our bodies with lifestyle and environmental factors that no previous generation of humans ever had to deal with. We can’t really compare notes with our parents and grandparents because the way they grew up is quite different than the way we have grown up. There used to be a time when life didn’t change much from one generation to the next. That is no longer the case.

We all experience more aches and pains as we get older, but what amount/intensity is normal and to be expected and what is out of the ordinary and warrants treatment by a professional? Any issues that interfere with your activities of daily living and diminish your enjoyment of life should certainly be addressed, especially if they are gradually worsening over time.

And if you’re someone who isn’t getting the minimum amount of exercise suggested by the Dept of Health and Human Services of 150 min per week of moderate intensity aerobic exercise and at least 2 sessions per week of strength training, then you will undoubtedly experience more health problems than someone who is following the recommended guidelines.

Future generations who will be growing up in an increasingly technologically advanced world will be experiencing even greater stresses placed upon their bodies due to the increasingly sedentary culture we have created. Case in point, there has been a significant rise in back pain reported this year among children and adolescents between ages 10 and 18 years old, compared to prior years.

As a chiropractor, it’s my job to help restore some of that good health that you might have prematurely lost. I do this by utilizing several treatment options I provide my patients in my office to get the body moving better, as well as at-home stretches and exercises to help keep their muscles and joints moving well.

 

The Truth Is, The Game Was Rigged From The Start

Yes it is common and normal for people to gain weight as we age, mostly due to a reduction in our basal metabolic rate (due to a natural 1% loss of lean muscle every year) as well as decreased adipose tissue turnover (meaning our current fat cells stick around longer and longer as we get older). But the amount of weight that the average person is gaining nowadays is unusually large compared to the past. Even gaining just a pound or two every year can add up over a lifetime. By the way, this tends to occur for most people between Thanksgiving and Christmas/New Year’s holidays.

Nearly 40% of us in the United States are obese while another 30% are overweight. The projected life expectancy of the average American citizen is now actually decreasing compared to previous projections. This needs to change. And it can change. Many of the chronic illnesses that we tend to suffer from, like heart disease and type 2 diabetes, are a result of poor lifestyle habits.

As an individual, the odds do seem to be stacked against you. When it comes to modern living, we have an almost unlimited number of options in terms of unhealthy food and beverage choices, easy access to fast food on every street corner, and we’re constantly bombarded with advertisements for things that taste good but aren’t good for you.

When was the last time you saw an ad promoting fruits and vegetables? The healthy options are few and far between. This combined with our increasingly sedentary lifestyles is not conducive to good health. It’s no wonder so many of us are out of shape and unhealthy. Some amount of discipline will be required to resist taking the easy route, the route we’re all being funneled into by modern life. Getting more daily movement is a good place to start.

 

EXERCISE AND MOVEMENT IS NO LONGER OPTIONAL

If you want to have any semblance of good health in the future you need to increase the amount of daily movement you are getting, and maintain that level of movement throughout your life. Just like constantly being late for work isn’t an option if you want to keep your job, skipping out on exercise isn’t an option if you want to keep your health. You somehow managed to find a way to make sure you get to work on time every day, whether that’s through waking up earlier, being more efficient in your morning routine, or starting preparations the night before.

You MUST similarly find a way to incorporate more exercise and movement into your life. Many of us choose to skip out on exercise because the consequences of doing so aren’t immediately apparent. Keep being late to work and you will soon suffer the negative repercussions, quite likely losing your job. Likewise, even though you might not be able to see it now, ignoring your body’s requirement for movement is a luxury you can’t afford.

Exercise may have been optional for our ancestors, because they always had to be moving anyway as a necessity of life. But as we perform fewer and fewer NEATs throughout the natural course of our daily lives from one generation to the next, it becomes more necessary than ever before that we voluntarily hit the gym or go out for a jog or do SOMETHING on a routine basis. Doing literally ANYTHING that gets you moving more than you would have otherwise is great for the body.

Movement is so important that research has shown that being overweight but active is better for your health than being skinny and inactive. So for those of us who are overweight and perhaps not seeing weight loss results from exercise alone, don’t be discouraged. The goal of exercise should not be to lose weight but rather to be more fit and healthy, and prevent the many negative effects of inactivity. In reality, the majority of weight-loss happens in the kitchen, not in the gym. Nonetheless, being active does help people manage their weight and prevent additional weight gain.

 

Game On!

As a lifelong gamer, oftentimes I would like nothing more than to sit at home all day and binge as many games as I can for as long as I can, without even getting up from my seat. But as a healthcare professional I know that’s not healthy or sustainable and that the best way to ensure I can continue to do the things I enjoy in life is to get more regular movement and to every now and then do the things I don’t enjoy quite as much, like go to the gym. Then I can allow myself to indulge in the hours-long gaming or Netflix binge-watching sessions, with the confidence that I won’t be endangering my health in the long run.

For sure it can be a tough balancing act, finding ways to incorporate healthy habits into your life while at the same time not detracting from your overall enjoyment of life. But that’s just the way it is. Some amount of discipline and sacrifice is necessary to accomplish whatever goals you have. Most of us make sacrifices when it comes to work, maintaining relationships, etc.

Taking care of your health requires some sacrifices too, including time, money, and energy spent and choosing to eat more fruits/vegetables instead of better tasting, unhealthy alternatives. But if you value having a healthy and high quality of life, throughout your life, then it will be worth it in the long run. And good health is something that’s hard to appreciate until you no longer have it.

 

More Chores, Please

So the next time you need to mow the lawn, take out the trash, cook a meal or do any other chores around the house that force you to get up and moving, don’t look at it as something you have to do but rather something you get to do, to help keep your body moving and active. With all the technological advances that we have access to so far and all the ones that will be developed within our lifetimes, what few NEATs we still do perform may soon be delegated to our robotic helpers instead.

 

A pretty accurate depiction of how bad our health can get if we don’t balance increased reliance on automation with increased movement / Image credit: Pixar

 

 

Introduce More Motion Into Your Life

If you haven’t been keeping up with daily functional movements, your body may have become deconditioned over time. After all, “we are what we repeatedly do.” If you are repeatedly a couch potato, you will remain a couch potato. If that’s what you want out of life, great, you do you. But if you want to avoid looking, feeling, and thinking like a couch potato for as long as you can, then you need to add at least a little more movement into your life.

Lack of movement can result in pain and dysfunction in the joints and soft tissues of the body. If you need some help to get moving again, I address pain, stiffness, muscle tightness and restricted joint motion in my office. I also show my patients stretches and daily exercises that will keep your joints moving, now and well into the future. But you need to do the work and invest time and energy into maintaining daily movement in some form. I can show you what movements to perform but I can’t do them for you.

Some of us are able to invest a portion of our earnings into savings and retirement plans that accrue over time and eventually provide a long term benefit in the end. Many of us may not be financially fortunate enough to do so. But something that everyone can do is invest the time, energy, and effort into exercise and keeping your body mobile and healthy. This is something that will pay dividends immediately and as you get older, in more ways than one.

Being healthy throughout your life is great for your waistline and your bottom line. Good health will not only allow you to maintain a high quality of life as you age, it is also much cheaper to maintain good health than it is to correct bad health. If you’re not healthy enough in your older years to enjoy the fruits of your current labors, then what’s the point of working as hard as you do? Take care of yourself, start today. That’s how you can Game On!

 

Final Words

There is no magic pill, device, gadget, or fad diet that can provide all the benefits of exercise and movement. Scientists are constantly uncovering all sorts of beneficial effects that exercise and movement in general bestows upon us.

Bathing and grooming yourself routinely is a necessity to maintain proper hygiene. Brushing regularly is a necessity to maintain your teeth. The sooner you realize that increasing movement is just something that you HAVE to do to maintain good overall health, the better off you will be. Just add it to the list of things you already do to function as a human being in the 21st century, and do it. 80-year-old you will be grateful that you did! (Especially if nothing is done about climate change and our future longevity depends on how well we do in the Thunderdome … )

P.S. Exercise, NEATs, and functional movement is only one part of the puzzle when it comes to attaining good health. Other factors like proper nutrition, portion control, adequate sleep, good posture, and stress reduction are also important. These are topics for another day, although I do briefly go over some of them in my previous blog post.

P.P.S. For those of you who do have physically demanding and active jobs, the concept of increasing NEATs throughout the day still applies. Even though you may move a lot at work, you most likely repeat the same movements over and over rather than experiencing a variety of motions. Being highly active for 8 or so hours at work and then being completely sedentary the rest of the day while relaxing at home can still be problematic. Rest is important but you shouldn’t completely avoid physical exertion during your off-hours. In fact, a well balanced exercise routine can make you stronger and better able to handle the rigors of your physically stressful occupation and possibly prevent repetitive stress injuries, which are often a result of overuse and muscle imbalances.

 

 

 

Title Image Credit: iRobot

Font Resize
Contrast
Call Us Text Us