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

sed

                 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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TIME TO MOVE FROM DIVIDE & CONQUER MANIPULATION TO COMMON GROUND FOR A WIN-WIN IN COPENHAGEN!!!

For passionate people like me, dangerous propoganda perfectly timed for sabotage is infuriating! As I listen to tidbits of media this week from NPR to Fox, I am appalled that the left has once againSarah Palin bought into this Divide and Conquer manipulation!

If there was ever a time to stop being sucked in to this manipulation and take the high road, the time is now. The time is now to REFOCUS on the COMMON GROUND we all share. We need to insist that our leaders and media spokespersons move away from expending energy on deflecting these distractions and that they insist on one direction only: strategizing towards WIN-WIN solutions!

Regardless of what anyone thinks about “Climate Change” or “Global Warming”, below are the talking points we should be focusing on during the Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen, because these points all effect the outcome that yes, does relate to the increase in global warming; but most importantly, these points Al Goreare the ones that are without a doubt, effecting our planet and need immediate attention:

* Overuse of plastics and non-recyclable plastics have produced oceanic waste in the magnitude of the infamous “plastic island” in the Pacific Ocean. This waste is not only threatening ocean species of all types, it is threatening humans through the food chain, increasing carcinogenic compounds in the fish we ingest. When plastic waste turns up in the carcasses of whales and other animals, fish, and birds, we need to start preventing this for everyone’s sake, no matter what a person’s country, political or religious preferences, we can all agree that a whale filled with plastic waste and oil sludge warrants regulation and preventive measures across the board. Plastic comes from oil, needs processing, produces pollution in the air, water, and land sources all throughout the life cycle. WE NEED REGULATION TO REDUCE  PRODUCTION OF PLASTICS AND NON-RECYCLABLE PLASTICS to PREVENT THE SPREAD OF TOXIC WASTE THROUGH LAND, WATER, SKY, AND FOOD SOURCES. If companies have not done this voluntarily up to now, we all know it won’t happen without regulation! CAP AND TRADE IS JUST A NIMBY SOLUTION THAT STILL EFFECTS THE WHOLE!

* When a company mines, or drills for oil or other natural resources anywhere in the world, regulations should be universal to prevent the poisoning of land, water, and air for the surrounding residents, workers, and the planet as clouds filled with toxins travel across the globe. WE NEED UNIVERSAL REGULATION OF TOXIC SUBSTANCES PRODUCED BY NATURAL RESOURCE EXTRACTION AND MANUFACTURING TO PREVENT THE HEALTH RISKS TO SO MANY POPULATIONS, WHICH USUALLY END UP BEING LOW-INCOME POPULATIONS THAT CANNOT ADVOCATE FOR THEMSELVES. We can all Earthshots pollution photoagree that this is not correct or good business in the eyes of any religious leader, God, or whomever. Coal ash, while regulated to reduce the effect of “global warming”, becomes another toxin through land and water sources. We need consistent regulation of toxins throughout the life cycle, not piecemeal shifting from one place to another.

* TRASH IN ALL FORMS NEEDS GLOBAL REGULATION SO WASTE, ELECTRONIC OR OTHERWISE, IS NOT HAULED OFF TO POLLUTE ANOTHER COUNTRY AND ITS CHILDREN.  (Sending carbon under the ocean to make it seemingly disappear will come back to haunt us somewhere down the road, perhaps through aquifirs.) Third world countries handling the waste from industrialized countries once again will continue to be the victims as long as a global criteria is not created. These countries often burn this hazardous waste, which travels through the sky, polluting each one of our bodies in time, regardless of what planetary warming effect it may have. It is toxic and needs regulation!

polluted earth NYCTHESE THREE TALKING POINTS, WE CAN ALL AGREE NEED REGULATION AND SOLUTIONS.

JOBS ARE NEEDED TO CLEAN UP ALL OF THESE TOXIC MINE FIELDS FROM THE RIVERS OF TENNESSEE TO AFRICA, LATIN AMERICA, AND INDONESIA. These jobs can replace the ones that are polluting the planet!

Regulations to address these toxic threats to humanity that we can ALL agree on will also have the effect of reducing global pollution.

NEW AND EXISTING ENERGY PRODUCTION NEEDS REGULATION TO PREVENT THE ABOVE PROBLEMS, whether it be PREVENTING ASTHMA for a CHILD LIVING CLOSE TO THE LOS ANGELES HARBOR or preventing contaminated DRINKING WATER IN APPALACHIA OR INDIA, UNIVERSAL REGULATION TO REDUCE ALL POLLUTION from ENERGY, NATURAL RESOURCES, AND MANUFACTURING PRACTICES WILL BE A WIN-WIN FOR ALL by LEVELING THE PLAYING FIELD. This will PREVENT THE systematic MIGRATION OF TOXINS TO ANY OTHER COUNTRY AND PREVENT ANY LOCAL ECONOMY from BECOMING A STATISTIC due to the CURRENT STATE of UNREGULATED GLOBAL INDUSTRIES! 

THE CONTINENT OF AFRICA IS THE NEXT COUNTRY POISED FOR RAMPANT POLLUTING INDUSTRY BY CHINA AND INDIA IF WE DO NOT STOP THIS NOW!

LET’S START WITH WHAT WE CAN ALL AGREE ON AND GO FROM THERE AND STOP BUYING INTO THE DIVIDE AND CONQUER TACTICS THAT A Family at the BeachARE JUST A DIVERSION FOR THESE DEEPER ISSUES THAT NEED GLOBAL SOLUTIONS AND REGULATIONS SIGNED BY ALL COUNTRIES NOW!

Me & Baby Manzanillo World Leaders, please take the high road! Our children are depending on you to do so!

Granny Pants

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Twitter: Value or Vanity?

twitter bird iconWhy do I Twitter?

This is the question each Twitter user will eventually ask when they come to the crossroads of either adopting or dropping Twitter as a way of life. We all know the following: The ‘new toy’ syndrome is short lived if the function does not bring value or satisfaction. Early adopters will try just about anything if they can see value and potential, while at the same time popular culture will try just about everything because everyone else is doing it. Both will drop a new ‘trend’ just ask quickly as they adopt it if there is no lasting value.

I think I fit into the former category. However, because I am not a ‘techie’ I study new trends before I adopt a new habit, so perhaps I fit into a middle category. Regardless, I took my time to step into the world of Twitter.

The thought of another social networking site filled with boring narratives about mundane activity did not stimulate or inspire me. Who cares what we are doing from moment to moment? For me, these endless vacant narratives are the epitomy of narcissism and an endless pit of wasted time.

I didn’t need time wasters. I needed value before I would become a ‘user’. I also wanted to make sure I would be providing value to others. I wanted to make sure I would actually have something to say if people followed me and that I was not just taking up cyberspace or just another notch on a member’s Twitter tree.

Initially, when I entered the Twitter world, I was seduced by the ‘recommended’ list of people to follow, but this list proved to be boring and unrelated to who I am-regardless of the lure of  ‘celebrity Twitter potential’. Celebrity does not impress me unless there is philanthropic or inspirational value to the twitters of the celebrity, little of which was occurring in the celebrity twitters I explored.

After a seemingly futile first attempt at finding value in Twitter, I realized I could discover on a daily basis what the people I was interested in were doing, thinking, acting on, and recommending.

The doors of Twitter opened. Following the thoughts of the creative minds and innovative leaders of our time was the song that spoke to me. Now I am an official Twitter user. Perhaps what is evolving for middle of the road users like myself is a new level of social networking that moves from narcissism and the mundane to an ability to reach others of like mind with a more efficient model. This is what I have found social networking to offer. I admit that I am a late bloomer like many of my same-age peers because now, I find myself excited about the potential of this phenomenon called social networking. The evolution of this discovery came in waves and has gone something like this:

My politically active spirit wanted to know what our new mayor of Sacramento, Kevin Johnson was up to every day! What is he really doing to improve our city’s image, economy, and quality of life? What is Gavin Newsom really up to in his race to Governor? Is his platform consistent with his SF mayorship? What is Jerry Brown doing with his time as California’s Attorney General? Is he focused on the governorship, or is he doing his job? What is the real future of the GOP up to, meaning Meghan McCain? Even though I am a Democrat, I believe Meghan McCain is the only current hope for the Republican party to gain the moderate Republican and youth vote. She exhibits common sense and hasn’t jumped on the irrational and hateful bandwagon that has recently hijacked the GOP.

Twitter gives me answers to these political questions on a daily basis.

And for a creative spirit that loves to be inspired, I follow ‘Etsy’ and other fun sites that update me on the latest creative inventions in DIY ideas.

Social networking entrepreneurs inform me on current trends and beneficial tech. functions that have the potential to enhance my business. Yes, Twitter has become a marketplace in many respects. The difference is that we choose who we market to and who markets to us. There is mutual agreement.

The eternal hunger to have an input system of media checks and balances sent me in search of ‘my’ reliable media sources on Twitter like DemocracyNow.org, Tavis Smiley, Treehugger (recognized by a Webby nomination in 2009), and whitehouse.gov (for the entire uncut, unfiltered version of our President’s speeches). Through Twitter I receive regular updates about newsworthy events that may never make it to mainstream television or popular internet media! The sites I have chosen to follow save me time; their ‘tweets’ dial in what I really want to know about: the behind the scenes events and activities of our time.

Then, there are those who are living a like-minded reality to mine. Many environmentally and socially conscious people and organizations have worthy businesses, blogs, and products that offer solutions for children, families, and global culture. By following these people on Twitter, I consider myself a helpful catalyst for their success while I continue to inform myself through their perspectives and industry progress. ( http://twitter.com/CWAE , http://twitter.com/askthedoula , http://canadian-natural-mama.blogspot.com/ ,  http://twitter.com/greenOD ,  http://twitter.com/Unnecesarean  are a few of my faves. ) Though as with everything, I found out through trial and error that there is a filtering process to following anyone if you want to prevent corporate driven information!  I learned to block people who were just interested in marketing to me or increasing their follower base. I learned to use key words and my own filtering methods to find like-minded users.

Today, Twitter has become a way for me to create my own media site in real time that is faster and richer than Facebook.  I receive the news and ideas on innovation that I want to hear, not what a corporation wants to feed me. I decide who I trust to give me information.

Twitter has given me more control over the media and information I am exposed to by my own design and I like it!

I spend less time on fruitless, mindless browsing as a result. I am more productive and more informed about what I care about, but I had to figure out how to actually make Twitter reflect my values before this value showed up!

OKAY, this does sound like a Twitter Promo, doesn’t it? I guess it’s just my way of saying Hooray! What could have been a fleeting trend has actually turned out to be a useful tool. This post will probably not change the minds of any current tweeters or savvy social networkers, but perhaps it will give the sceptics a different view of Twitter possibilities. For those who continue to use Twitter as a platform for the mundane,  C’est la vie!

Good luck in finding your own social networking value. If you are curious, you can check out who I follow on Twitter (which interestingly, are very different from my Facebook friends) @ http://twitter.com/GrannyPants. Some of those I follow have very informative twitters, others are merely a connection to maintain, but most importantly, all are by choice!

Christina Ivazes

a.k.a. Granny Pants

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated and have not been paid or rewarded by any entity of Twitter in any way. I also reserve the right to use Twitter as a platform for the mundane if I so choose.

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