Category Archives: #Helsinki

Sedentarianism: Disease or Addiction? The Dilemmas of a Sedentary Society

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                 The escalating rate of childhood obesity in the U.S. is just one example of  “the canary in the coal mine.” There is a much larger, more encompassing issue at hand of which childhood obesity is just one symptom. This issue is a growing disease/addiction I call “sedentarianism.” In my book published last November, 2009:  The New Physics of Childhood: Replacing Modern Myths with Simple Solutions, I introduce the concept of sedentarianism because in order to fully address the problem of obesity, behavioral issues and an increasingly illiterate and unskilled labor force in the United States, we need to look at all of the connected and contributing factors to our increasingly sedentary lifestyles, not just school lunch programs, high-fructose corn syrup or income disparities.

obesity

The terms sedentarianism and sedintarianism and sedentarism  have been used by others before in publications and posts, yet this post is not do dispute the word itself, but to understand the term itself and its implications in our global future.

The definition of a disease is:  1. A pathological condition of a part, organ, or system of an organism resulting from various causes, such as infection, genetic defect, or environmental stress, and characterized by an identifiable group of signs or symptoms. 2. A condition or tendency, as of society, regarded as abnormal and harmful.

The broad medical definition of an addiction is: persistent compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be physically, psychologically, or socially harmful..

I make my case below for a more conscious global plan to combat sedentarianism. You can decide whether or not it qualifies as a disease or an addiction. Regardless, I hope you will agree that it is worthy of escalated attention.

Sedentarianism is the abnormal daily way of life for a growing number of Americans, adults and children, evolving subtly and slowly over decades of cultural shifts, inventions, and failed policies. We are now in a moment where many of us don’t even realize that sedentarianism is an abnormal way of life, that it is extremely life-threatening and contrary to the physical, psychologial and social needs of every person it affects.  Shift-by-shift and invention-by-invention, we have been and still are, chipping away the amount of physical activity and outdoor activity that each American gets compared to life 50 years ago. With every next new technological invention or seemingly helpful new product or service, we are slipping deeper and deeper into a deceptive lifestyle that is literally killing us from a multitude of angles.

Sedentarianism is an individual problem, a family problem, a city, state, national and growing global problem. Everyone is effected and in order to address this global threat efficiently, we need everyone to be a part of the solution: parents, mayors, city planners, educators and policy makers. Investing in the preventives to sedentarianism with save billions in health care and crime while creating a stronger, healthier, more capable and productive country, whereas if we just focus on antidotes like prisons and pharmaceuticals, we will be drowning in debt with a lose-lose situation for all. So, let us take a closer look at preventives by looking at the subtle changes and symptoms that have led the U.S. to become a nation suffering from sedentarianism.

From The New Physics of Childhood, Chapter 6:

“Many homes in the U.S. today have yards which are surprisingly not even set up with growing kids in mind. Yards are filled with kid-prohibited landscaping like poisonous plants, sharp drop offs, pools without fences, and bare concrete, with no swing-set or jungle gyms or tree forts to play in. Or worse yet, there is no yard at all. There are even people who design new homes to cover an entire lot, foolishly omitting the yard for both children and adults to enjoy.”

couch potato 

 

From Chapter 15:

“Once again,  it is important we discuss “sedentarianism” and the role that city planners and developers have in this social disease. Sedentarianism is propagated by suburban sprawl, box stores, and zoning laws in suburban, rural, and urban communities. Fast food becomes the standard meal for working families when isolated communities are not offered convenient fresh food choices due to zoning laws that favor large chain stores over neighborhood grocers and/or farmer’s markets. Sedentarianism produces higher crime rates when urban communities have zoning laws that permit liquor stores on every corner, selling alcohol, cigarettes, soda and even guns. Sedentarianism increases diabetes rates when these same communities have grocery stores with fresh food on the average of a mile apart with fast food alternatives in closer proximity. Sedentarianism increases isolation when we build new housing tracts far from a city’s hub without connecting public transit. Sedentarianism increases addiction and obesity rates through isolation when we allow apartment buildings to exist without playgrounds, parks, and safe outdoor common areas and/or community centers. Communities forced indoors due to limited healthy opportunities to interact experience numerous negative consequences that impact the larger society.

If we replace six-foot high solid fences and walls that separate and force isolation, with short, and open white picket fences, we invite a smile or wave from a neighbor. If we create front porches with benches or swings that encourage neighbors to sit and greet passersby during morning and evening walks, we encourage familiarity and conversation with one another. If we design garages that do not dominate the front of a house, but are discreetly set in the back or to the side, observation and connectedness become priorities, replacing isolation. We remove the fear factor, “the fear of the unknown.” Lack of knowledge about our neighbors creates a climate of mistrust, fear, and secrecy. These emotions are breeding grounds for crime because unknown community members lack accountability. Isolation robs a person of the feeling of belonging or responsibility to a larger community.

A heightened sense of belonging and higher quality of  life is invaluable to every resident, regardless of age. Safety and inclusion result when grocery shopping is within walking distance, bicycling trails are within every housing tract and neighborhoods connect to every other neighborhood, and are continued to downtown areas in all residential and commercial zones—regardless of distance. This community model is not new; it has been the common European model for centuries; in fact, most of the world’s communities are designed like this and should be celebrated and maintained instead of being replaced with the highly problematic designs of the U.S. suburbs and urban areas.

Commercial facilities and factories with healthy outdoor environments also experience more indoor productivity by increasing employee satisfaction during breaks and lunches. Bicycle trail connectedness from residential communities to the workplace and shower/change facilities at work increase employee health and reduce sick days. Plain and simple: connectedness increases well-being and safety for all.

Communities designed with the citizenry walking and greeting each other have less crime and less problems with adolescents because again, all eyes are upon everyone: nature’s built-in—free of cost—security system.”

from The New Physics of Childhood: Replacing Modern Myths with Simple Strategies

I was in Finland this past winter. After only 1 week, I had already learned about the issues arising from the isolation Somalian immigrants were feeling in Helsinki. Racism and cultural differences are creating a situation that is causing many of these intimidated immigrants to remain indoors, escaping their pain through television.

This newly produced Finnish problem smelled awfully familiar to what I have seen evolving within the immigrant Latino communities I am familiar with in the U.S., specifically California. Disenfranchised populations will isolate themselves as a survival mechanism, yet the devastating effects of sedentarianism prevail in these situations such as obesity, insomnia, depression, aggression, and illness, among others. When immigration policies create fear in any community, sedentarianism increases with all of its by-products.

The education component of sedentarianism is just as important to consider in the future financial and economic health of our planet.  When children and adults are sitting in front of a television or video game or spending hours of useless time on cell-phones and computers (versus productive time), every community is losing this valuable time individuals used to be spending on reading, creating, training, and working. The long-term devastating iphone effects on our global culture are yet to be seen now that our current focus and mania has become the latest “App” or “Tweet” or “Wall Post” instead of the real, tangible activities that drive any healthy economy.

We know today, that children are under-educated, but they are also becoming socially and emotionally incapacitated with an increasingly sedentary culture if they are not getting the “optimum” physical and social face-to-face opportunity to develop these crucial communication and social skills with their own families, peers, and community members. Technology has created more opportunities for socialization on one hand, but on the other hand it has also created more isolation from the outer world, specifically the outdoor and in-person social world where instincts and a multitude of sensory skills are developed.

We have replaced productivity with hobbies, feeding this disease of sedentarianism until now it has become so interconnected into our daily life that it is accepted as normal, even with symptomatic abnormal behaviors like insomnia.  These time wasters of misplaced creativity and distractions are the pathogens, but what we don’t realize is that these pathogens are weakening our physical, psychological and social constitutions which are reducing our chances to transform into productive and prosperous societies. New technology, like a euphoric, fleeting cocaine buzz, has now become indispensible to our economic growth and to everyday life. The product pushers of our economy, who are also addicted, deny this dilemma because it feeds the larger monster: the global economy. Now, as a global culture, we are addicted to the products and behaviors that promote sedentarianism.  Country by country, those who adopt our American dysfunctional ways and seductive products are suffering the same symptoms such as obesity, behavioral problems, learning challenges, suicide, etc.  These results are all connected to this spreading addiction of  sedentary indoor activities that are replacing the vital physical needs of our bodies, minds and spirits.  Though, if we carefully examine this quandry that feeds our economy while killing our population, we can begin to design and promote a new era of productivity based on the real needs of the human being, not perceived, vacant, market driven products that feed the spread of this disease/addiction.

Personally, like the billions of others, I am enthralled with all of these social networking tools. I Twitter & have several Facebook pages  & blogs, but I have seen in my own life how addicting these activities can become. I made a vow this Spring to make the effort to start working more with my hands again and not just on a keyboard. I started a bit of gardening and made a blanket for my new granddaughter that will arrive in August. Last night, as I sewed all of the crocheted squares of her blanket together. I reveled in this very tangible act of  love that would last for many years, just as my latest grandson’s blanket has lasted for him.

At the end of the day, a tangible, creative and lasting measure of my efforts is the most rewarding, whether it be a weekend with my daughters and grandchildren, a published book or a blanket. For me, these are the measure of success. (Of course, I also feel accomplished when a blog post receives an abundant amount of hits and/or comments.)  We all have to find our own measure of success and go for it until we achieve it and then go for it again and again and again. It may be that part of that success does involve sitting at a computer, but at the end of the day, isn’t balance what we are striving for to ensure we are not suffering the effects of sedentarianism?  When we stop going for it is when we are more susceptible to the many addicting distractions of sedentarianism. The distractions that can take us further from ourselves and leave us feeling empty and unfulfilled at the end of every day. We all have physical, psychological and social needs to be fulfilled, regardless of where technology is leading us.

Of course, in my own life, I have found that by being honest with myself about my own vulnerability to succumb is the first step. Then, I know that I need to make sure I start my day physically with exercise, because if I have numerous tasks to accomplish on my laptop such as this blogpost, I know that I will get sucked into this seductive world and that my body will suffer if I don’t start with exercise first!  For me, insomnia and body aches are my clues that I have been too sedentary. We each have our own warning signs. I also know that those around me are observing and learning from my own choices, so I have to kick it up a notch, which becomes a motivator. I love it when my  1 1/2 year old grandson, Hudson comes to watch me exercise and joins in to do his squats. Hudson also gets me out of the house for walks more frequently than when I am by myself. I am just as prone to sedentarianism as the next person. It takes tremendous will power to counteract the everyday temptations like that closer parking spot, the elevator instead of the stairs, television all evening instead of a refreshing walk around the neighborhood, coffee before exercise (which will ruin everything for the day).

Sedentarianism is a preventable. Whether it is cultural disease or addiction, it is being fed in many forms throughout our days in blatant and oh so subtle ways. Even baby monitors today make it unnecessary for a parent to get up and walk to their child’s bedroom to see if they are okay! It seems like every latest invention is geared toward less physical activity, not more. Many of the newest children’s outdoor toys are now battery operated so kids don’t even need to use their legs to make their bike or razors move!

With honesty and awareness we can consciously insist and reward innovations for anyone responsible for city planning and/or new inventions make considerations to increase walking, movement and productivity, while boycotting products or community designs that promote the life-threatening, costly effects of sedentarianism. We are creative beings that are always searching for products or “Apps,” to make life easier, but if easier means less physical movement, perhaps we should consider passing! Maybe that is where the next phone “App” revolution should be: to increase physical activity. I am still waiting for this idea for every classroom in the U.S. : Energy Efficient Bicycle-Powered Classroom  Focusing on inventions like this will stamp out sedentarianism!

Granny Pants

Owner, Chamelea Productions

Author of The New Physics of Childhood: Replacing Modern Myths with Simple Strategies

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A Winter Wonderland

Here are some photos of Helsinki during this very rare and cold winter! My descriptions are lame because it is late and I am tired!

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View from my apt. window

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Dreamy

frosty trees

Frosty Tree

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Frosty Bush

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Frosty Limbs

Since I do not have a good camera with me on this trip, I am sure others are getting spectular photos of Helsinki this week. The fog created almost an inch of flat, paperlike frost on each limb yesterday, but today the fog was lighter. I hope to get more and better photos in the future and am kicking myself for not having a good camera!!!!!!!  I feel like I am in the middle of Dr. Zhivago!

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Part 1- A Finnish Christmas Dream Come True

I can’t stand it another minute! I cannot bear to wait to share the perfection of these moments with anyone and everyone. I am in the midst of the picture perfect Finnish Christmas that one could only dream of experiencing. With my own Finnish family roots, I feel as if I am capturing a slice of culture to pass on as I take in every precious moment.

A Finnish Christmas 2009

The beautiful view from the kitchen table

After a 5 hour train ride to the North East of Finland, we are staying in the family home where my dear friend’s Grandfather was born. It was once a very large estate, but now it is smaller, only about 42 hectares (1 hectare is about 2.471 acres).

I am surrounded by snowy, tree filled landscape, ancient outbuildings and the most endearing brick oven which we are going to bake our traditional Finnish Rye Bread today.

This bread is from a sourdough starter that has been kept alive in the family for three generations! We are following the very calculated three -day process to

Traditional Oven

Traditional Finnish stove and oven

 bake it.

With all of this and more, I am so overwhelmed by this perfect and blessed moment in my life that I cannot possibly recall everything. I am too busy enjoying it, which is what I should be doing.

Anyone who knows my history of bread baking knows this is absolute ecstasy for me to be a part of this experience! I will be posting the entire bread baking process with the recipe once we are finished, but until then, I just pray that we will be able to pull it off! Just for a taste of what we have taken on, here is a picture of the 5 gallon bucket we are using to mix the dough for 8 loaves:

finnish sourdough starter

The Ancient Family Sourdough Starter in the 5 gallon bucket

Just had to post a note and will continue to do so as the opportunity arises. Between sick babies, cooking, rearranging the house, preparing for Christmas, and baking this bread, I am in a place called Finnish Christmas Heaven! All I need is Santa Claus and my own loved ones to make this dream complete.

This is the only way to travel! How could you ever understand a culture otherwise than by living in the moments amidst the families that are a part of it?

The snow has started to fall quick thickly again and I have to get to work! Merry Christmas!!!!!

The view from my bedroom window

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CONFESSIONS OF A FIRST TIME AUTHOR

It has been made extremely clear by those who are closest to me that I need to share my process of writing, publishing, and promoting to people who share my obsession with these subjects. Though no one has actually said this to me directly, I can tell by the questions that have stopped being asked about “my book,” the quickness in the change of subject when I mention “my book,” and the relief we all feel when we are talking about something else other than “my book.”

Ahhhh!!!!!! Am I the only one who gets sick of conversations about “my book” at the same time I feel the satisfaction of self-indulgence?

This is a confession of sorts. I know I have neglected my own family in the process of publishing this first book, which I suppose is quite normal. I qualify this obsessive behavior because I realize a degree of tunnel vision and consuming behavior is necessary to produce any project, whether it is building a home, starting a business, or starting a family. Writing a book is similar and requires intense focus and dedication. It requires ignoring dusty corners, dirty laundry, and old leftovers in the refrigerator. I think a first book requires that one not get derailed by the lives of others, because as many writers have experienced, getting derailed is quite easy. How many years do people dream of writing a book or completing their first book, but never get there because we do get derailed by getting involved in the lives of our loved ones, by being there when people need us. There is always something pending that takes precedent over writing, editing, re-writing, and editing some more. Derailment is both the savior and saboteur of the unsuccessful writer.

But, now that my book is published, it is time to move on. Now it is time to talk to my family about more than “my book” after three years of devoted listening. Now is the time for me to be there for them when they need me, both physically and emotionally. I want to hear more about their lives and about what is important to them, even though I still do have the deep need to share my process with someone who will listen.

So, with this blog, I give my entire family an eternal break from the day-to-day mundane, exciting, and often gut-wrenching details involved in writing. I am grateful for their support and their indulgence while I incubated and finally birthed this new life for myself, the life I have always dreamed of and visualized.

However, the biggest confession I have to make about the experience of writing my first book is that while my husband has been the most patient and supportive throughout my entire process, admittedly, the events of the past years due to the economy and my obsession to complete my book has changed our relationship. After grieving these changes, I acknowledge the gratitude for him in my life and his support and our connection in life, no matter where our lives may lead in the future. This may sound callous to be so matter-of-fact about this subject but after a lifetime of traumatic events, I have had to learn to roll with the changes. This is the only way not to let them take over my life and fill it with daily suffering. Life is too important to wallow in what could have been. I have learned to accept what I have been given and love all of those in my life along the way, even though how we are connected may change.

Catharsis, the honest expression of what is real for me has become the essence of my inspiration. Being safe is boring. The most exhilarating moments I have experienced have been while speaking to groups of people, sharing the frank, somewhat provocative and inspiring reflections from my life experiences. These experiences somehow link us all together because I am not the only one who has suffered through the school of hard knocks and picked myself up again. We gain strength from being surrounded with resiliency.

Most recently, at my 2nd book signing at Underground Books in Sacramento, California, I found myself in front of a group of people, most of whom I did not know. I was so grateful for each person that turned out for this event because it was a cold, dreary, rainy day in a city where people really don’t really know me, not even when I was living there. The discussion format of the event was perfectly suited to my open nature and the exchange was a spontaneous dance, leaving us all satisfied when it was over. I knew I was in the right place doing the right thing; just another affirmation that all of my former steps in life had been perfectly placed to lead me to this moment.

After the fulfillment of that event, there is no going back for me now. If I had any thoughts that I should give up on this dream of mine and get a “real job”, I erased them that afternoon.

Writing is a way to create a lasting record of those conversations, even though it requires much more patience, perseverance, and perfection than I ever imagined! I hope to find a way to integrate the spontaneous exhilaration of those live exchanges into more of my future published products, which is probably why blogging satisfies me.

Blogging and posting to others blogs gives me the platform and satisfaction of spontaneous expression while encompassed in the grueling work of writing an entire book. I love living between the evolving ethos of cyberspace and the permanency of the printed page. It is time to embrace all that I have been given without apologies, for this is who I am!

As I deal with jet lag this week from Helsinki, I am finding that blogging is even a better 4am friend than I had ever realized, but I need to make sure that it doesn’t become another derailment to my next project. While I hunker down to start the research on my next book, I know I need to focus, but it still feels good to get out my thoughts of the day.

I sold my first book in Finland yesterday! Yes, it was to a friend, but a sale nevertheless! I consider each and every book I share with the world a fulfillment of my mission, whether I know the person or not. I have to admit though that I do want to know that they are actually reading the book! I don’t to sell, but to share information. There are much easier ways to make a living, but very few compare to the feeling of having a book in print to share with others.

I pray that the Finnish community, with their pragmatic sensibilities, will embrace the messages in this book, which also embrace the best of their own constant cultural influences, while cautioning against the take over of modern life as it relates to their infants, children and teenagers. No matter where we are on the planet today, children are influenced by technology, which has its wonderful advantages. However, we also need to ensure that technology maintains its proper place and does not replace the deeper needs of the community members, whether they exist in cyberspace or just around the corner.

6:45am…time to get some sleep. Are you a writer of books, blogs, etc.? Have you found that blogging spares your loved ones from obsessive thoughts and midnight musings? Is this is a universal experience or do other writers find it easier to refrain from self-absorbed conversations about their books, especially first books and just prior to the publishing process. Who do you talk to about all of these details without boring them to death?

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