We are born to walk.
However, evidence suggests that the human race is walking less year on year.
When we were hunters and gatherers we walked from 3.5 to 7 miles a day. Now, we barely walk half a mile a day and the distance is getting shorter.
In the last 40 years, the distances walked by the UK population has significantly shortened. The number of walking trips has also fallen.
So what has happened?
We’ve collated some research and spoken to Dr Vijay Patil, an orthopaedic fellow at Basildon University Hospital in Essex to find out how these changes in our behaviour have come about.
Just take a look at these infographics.
The human body: made for two feet
Walking on two feet is one of the crucial differences between humans and animals.
The pivotal moment in our evolution was when we became hunter-gatherers. The Hadza people in Tanzania are one of the few remaining hunter-gatherer societies left on the planet.
Through studying their habits and routines, scientists discovered that they walk up to 7 miles a day.
Whereas in the UK the general population are moving less than ever according to the data collected by The Department of Transport.
2015. An average person walked less than half a mile a day
2005. An average person walked 0.54 miles a day
1985. An average person walked 0.75 miles a day
1975. An average person walked 0.80 miles a day
At the same time, however, 21st-century professional athletes are breaking the limits of the human’s physical capabilities.
The reality of sitting down too much
Dr Patil is concerned that the way our lives are organised; working long hours in sedentary jobs, followed by sedentary/technological leisure pursuits, and readily available public/private transport, are contributing factors to many illnesses found in the West, including heart-related deaths, obesity, certain types of cancers and metabolic conditions such as Type 2 Diabetes, among others.
He says, ’Our body’s muscle-bone structure is designed for not only fighting gravity but also to keep us mobile.’
He also points out that every day we are presented with a wealth of opportunities to consume highly calorific food stuff among other unhealthy temptations, which when combined with not moving enough can heighten the chances of ill health.
How can just a simple walk make your life better?
Walking is in our DNA. When we walk, our body and mind feels refreshed. By including regular walking activities, Dr Patil believes many people can expect an improvement in overall mood and has evidence to suggest that it can reduce back pain as well as improve your sex life and sleep pattern.
People who walk regularly have been found to possess more energy and self-confidence so they have better achievements at a personal, professional and social level.
People who walk more or exercise feel more energetic and self-confident so they have better achievements at personal, professional and social level.
What can we do?
It’s easy to begin walking a little more day by day.
You can challenge yourself by taking the stairs or walking up the escalator, or getting off the bus a stop early. Just 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week is recommended for a healthy lifestyle.
This exercise is just as important for children and seniors as it is for others.
The 80-year old Japanese man who conquered Mount Everest is an extreme example but it shows the capabilities of a human body are often beyond what we imagine.
Adopting a healthy lifestyle can be as simple as:
• A brisk walk in the park
• Riding your bicycle to work
• Standing up from your work desk regularly throughout the day and stretching your body to relax all of your muscles
If you want to commit more time to look after your health, take part in regular gym sessions every week.
The future of humanity: How will our bodies adapt?
What we do over hundreds and thousands of years affects how we eventually look and function. During our evolution, we have become taller, less hairy and the latest discovery is that some of us don’t develop wisdom teeth anymore.
If we continue to live our lives passively and avoid walking who knows what we’ll look like in the future.
‘Reduction in mobility has far-reaching consequences that affect us all as individuals. Humans have essentially devolved from hunter-gatherers to consumers of technology with an easy life based around our sofa. It is almost inevitable that we may have to pay the price of a modern lifestyle with evolutionary changes. Although it is impossible to predict what these changes might be the more pressing question is when.’, concludes Dr Patil.