Hands up if you can recall a sleek, white-suited John Travolta, arm extended to the sky, dancing to the Bee Gees hit “Staying alive”. Would it hurt to say you’re a little last century? Not to worry, you’re in good company. The company that carries you around; the very body that houses this musical memory. Yep, when that DNA map started building the unique you, it used designs based on a lifestyle that might terrify you in its ‘wholesomeness’.
This means that your body’s about as well adapted to this century’s lifestyle as you are walking into your teenager’s party. Our bodies are built for the hunter-gatherer time period, not a bound-to-the-desk epoch. With our food-in-a-packet, on-the-couch-channel-hopping activity patterns; even our mirror-bound thinking doesn’t come close to chasing down the weekly fat/protein meal we were built for.
I see it often in my exercise coaching classes – stooped backs, rounded shoulders, butt muscles that don’t work properly. It takes consistent effort to get muscles moving in way they’re structurally engineered to move. It takes discipline to eat foods that aren’t a 3-minute microwave ‘meal’.
The reason it takes such effort is down to another body design element – the conserving of energy for explosive activity. Except, of course, that instead of running down to the corner café, we drive. We skip the stairs and take the lift. Forget gathering and chopping wood – we’ll light up the stove instead. Our bodies keep conserving fuel for that anticipated spurt, while our nervous systems build a movement memory based on tapping keyboards.
We do this not because of laziness, but because we’re designed to conserve energy at every opportunity. Our modern lifestyles are built on reducing activity, on making life easier, on using machines to overcome the pull of gravity we’re designed to counter. It’s a train smash.
We should be dancing, Yeah!
What’s the answer? You could leave town, head for the hills, find a comfortable cave and start gathering a woodpile. Perhaps a more feasible option starts with dusting off your favourite teenage tracks. Download “YMCA” and let the music take over. Allow your body to move, remind yourself of the joy of letting go, of everything flowing together.
A happy body works the same way as that big hit – it’s a combination of notes guided by an underlying rhythmic beat. You can try to just exercise, or just diet, or just spot your negative thinking patterns. You’ll have some success too. But to truly overcome the challenge to a millennia-old body design presented by the modern couch lifestyle is going to take doing everything in combination.