One year on from the start of lockdown in the UK really got me thinking about the impact this last year has had on my health. The thing I’ve missed most over this last year is my autonomy. The thing my body has missed most this last year is movement. I’ve felt static between my bouts of purposeful exercise. My days all look identical, I sit, I work, I workout, I go for a walk. I eat in between. Everything has felt stationary. Parked up since March 2020. It kind of feels like that’s how things have always been.
It’s easy to forget all the non-exercise related activity that we did that contributed to our overall health and over the last year has been taken away from us. The movement we did every day, that wasn’t directly related to exercise has been significantly reduced. We’ve swapped walking between lectures to walking from your bedroom to the sofa. We’ve swapped our daily commutes for a trip to the dining room table. We’ve swapped our Friday night clubbing (and associated questionable dancing) for a zoom call slumped on your bed. We’ve quite literally stopped moving. So no wonder we feel static.
So, what will this mean for the future of our health? And our health habits?
Actually, what I am for the future of our health, is optimistic. I realised that one year is not a long time in the grand scheme of things. The average life expectancy in the UK is around 81 years old. One of those years moving significantly less, although not ideal, is not the end of the world (although it felt like it sometimes).
I’m going to give you two scenarios.
Scenario 1: If over a 40-year period I had a relatively sedentary life. I had my desk/ work from home job and did very limited exercise. Then one year I decided to run London Marathon. I spent the whole year training, 5 runs a week, ran the marathon, and then went back to my sedentary life.
Scenario 2: I spent the same 40 years walking to work every day – for one hour overall (30 minutes there, 30 minutes back). I averaged about 10,000 steps a day. I didn’t run London marathon, but I walked to work every day.
In which scenario am I healthier? In which scenario do I do more movement?
Although in scenario 2 I didn’t run London Marathon, I showed up for myself and my health 5 days a week. For 40 years. In scenario 1, I showed up for myself for one year, with 5 training sessions a week.
If we do some quick maths:
5 training sessions a week (1 hour per session) = 5 hours per week.
5 hours per week x 52 weeks in a year = 260 hours of exercise
5 days a week walking to work (1 hour per day) = 5 hours a week
5 hours per week x 52 weeks in a year = 260 hours of walking
260 hours of exercise x 40 years = 10,400 hours of walking
Yes, this example isn’t perfect, and these numbers are not exact. However, the difference is still massive. This is the beauty of compounding. Showing up for yourself for 40 years for 1 hour a day, five days a week, can have significantly more impact than running London Marathon one year.
Health is not one singular event. Or one year of your life. Health is the everyday things we do. It’s the things we take for granted or think that they don’t count. Health is about showing up for yourself day in, day out. Your health is the average of everything you do. And that’s why I’m not worried about the impact the last year will have in the long run of my life.
This is why our habits are so important. Particularly the habits we will bring into our lives in our new future. I know that although I’ve felt static for one year, I plan on moving for the next 39 and I know my health will more or less be the average of that. My results will compound. The further away from year 1 I get, the less static I hope to feel.
Over the last year you may feel that your health has slipped. You may feel that you’ve been exercising significantly less or your diet has been significantly worse. This is one year. One year of your life, whilst that might seem like a long time, in the grand scheme of things?
In scenario 1, we proved that one year didn’t make that much difference really. Your health really is an average of what do you do. So, I’m not asking you what you did this last year. That was year 1 out of 40. I’m asking, what are you going to do for the next 39?