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The ultimate way to avoid depression, disease and early death? Exercise!

Hunter Gatherer ImageA new report has revealed the mental health benefits of just an hour’s physical activity a week. It seems there is nothing a workout can’t cure. Here is why we should all sit less and move more.

Are you sitting comfortably? Don’t! Stand up and walk around the house. Leave your desk and jog down the office stairs. Even better – jog up the stairs. If it’s lunchtime, go and join a yoga class or head for the shops on foot. What’s to lose? You are going to feel better and live longer.

Hardly a day goes by without a new piece of research flagging up the benefits to our physical and mental health of getting more active. On Tuesday, a study of 30,000 Norwegians found that even one or two hours’ exercise a week can help prevent depression. The Wildlife Trust has just published that two-thirds of its volunteers, digging ditches and building bird tables in the open air, had better mental health within six weeks.

Getting off your backside and moving about, preferably a bit vigorously some of the time, will stave off heart disease, strokes, cancer and diabetes. It can keep your blood pressure steady and helps you sleep. You may not shed pounds, but it will help keep your weight stable. It can overcome anxiety and boost self-esteem. Older people who are active are less likely to have a hip fracture or a fall.

We have the sitting disease. According to Public Health England physical inactivity is one of the top 10 causes of disease and disability in England. It is responsible for one in six deaths in the UK, which is the same as smoking. It costs the UK an estimated £7.4bn a year. If exercise was a pill, it would be the biggest blockbuster in the history of medicine.

We weren’t built to sit in front of a computer, a TV screen and a steering wheel. We were designed to be moving around.

“It is what we were made to do,” says Nick Cavill of Oxford University’s department of public health. Everyone probably knows the basic point, but often we overlook it in our busy modern lives. We are hunter-gatherers. We were designed to be physically active all day long. Our bodies are still stuck in neolithic times, while our minds are in the 21st century.”

Every day active is key in all of this and it’s what a standing desk contributes to. Most of us still need to use technology in our normal work lives. The most sensible answer is to use it actively.

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