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A great podcast, a fantastic opportunity!

Getting moving and disconnecting

Come together Peaceful Valley Citizen Scientists

One thing I think we all have in common at Peaceful Valley is our quest for individual and community health and happiness. We consider optimal health to be a mental and physical state which is not limiting us, but lifting us up, and allowing us to experience the whole of life. Being physically healthy enough to go on a walk or hike, gardening or doing work around the house, helping a friend with a project or helping them move; doing all this without getting easily fatigued or not being able to complete the task. Being mentally healthy enough to deal with a difficult problem and solve it without becoming overwhelmed and spiraling into unhealthy habits like: using nicotine and alcohol to distract us when we are stressed, or giving in to road rage and flipping the bird to a stranger, or taking our life's frustrations out on the people around us because we don't have positive tools to positively deal with the root of the problem, which ultimately comes from within. We learn that we cannot change people, but must find change within ourselves to help motivate those to do the same. To find understanding with oneself, is to find understanding with one another. If we all come together, and work to find better, more inclusive, ways to be physically and mentally healthy, I think that is the best route to creating a better world.

This week NPR’s Ted Radio Hour Podcast came out with the first of a six part series called Body Electric . The host Manoush Zomorodi came together with Keith Diaz of Columbia University Medical Center to help identify “The relationship between our technology and our bodies”. In the podcast they discuss how our bodies have changed as new technology has developed, how today's technological advancements have hurt us physically and mentally, and how we can coexist with this new technology while maintaining a better physical and mental health than we would if we just keep taking the new tech, without adapting with it.

As technology develops, not only will our lives change, but our bodies do too. In the podcast Professor Vybarr Cregan-Reid discusses how he can identify this change throughout our history. He starts with discussing how the first example of this can be found when humans evolved from solely hunting and gathering, to developing agriculture and irrigation. This change being that humans wouldn't have to go far to eat and drink, meaning our bodies would require much less calories to survive, resulting in a change in our bone density and structure. Later examples of this can be seen with the humble invention of the chair-which is credited to the Egyptians nearly 5800 years ago! At first chairs were only things for the upper class, over time the chair became accessible to all social classes, evolving from chair to La-Z-Boy, creating the tradition of sitting we see in today's world. In our most recent history this change can be seen with the industrial revolutions grueling labor for adult and child laborers. This type of labor, which replaced farming and craftsmanship trades literally stunted the growth of labores. Reid notes that the average height for a sixteen year old in the 1800’s was a foot shorter than it is today! (14.57) In our present we see hunched backs, cramped hands, red eyes and headaches-to name a few- that are a result of our new technologies. Isn't it interesting how when we change the world, we change ourselves as well?

A great way to start offsetting negative effects of the sedentary aspects of new tech is to “get your anthropocene body to use its tools better”.(19.17) We can do this by recognizing the era we live in, the era of electric and social technology, and effectively adapt to increase our mental and physical health for the better. We identify what potential problems tech brings: lack of sunlight, lack of movement, lack of real physical and emotional connection; and identify solutions: frequently moving, doing yoga, spending time in nature, spending time with friends and family.

Today, using tech is to be still. Most of the time when we use tech, we are sitting. New studies suggest that the average person spends 11 hours a day using some form of tech! To boot, almost 85% of today's jobs are done with tech. (6.17) That's millions, if not billions of people who have to be still for their entire work day. On average a person will work 90,000 hours within their lifetime, that's 90,000 hours of non-peaceful stillness, staring at a screen. And that's just the screen time at work. Think of how big that number would be if we took into account the time we spend “relaxing” when we are scrolling on our phones or binge watching television. This stillness in the long term can lead to chronic health conditions like diabetes, cancers, heart disease, and depression, ultimately decreasing our life span.(20.24) But there's hope!

Luckily, with the help of scientists and citizen scientists around the world, we are adapting, and lifting ourselves up. Scientist Keith Diaz has done various studies researching how we can implement changes into our lives to better deal with the negative effects of sitting. One of his goals is to discover a method that everyone can do, to identify the minimum amount of movement needed to offset the side effects of sitting. Diaz found that even exercising and standing desks would not be enough to aid in the long-term negative effects of prolonged periods of non-movement, but “movement snacks'' are what works best. He says that if every hour of non-movement, we spend a minimum of one minute of movement like walking or stretching we can improve our blood pressure, blood sugar levels, fatigue and mood. However, his studies have only ever been done in laboratory settings. Which brings us back to the collaboration between NPR and Columbia University.

NPR and Columbia are giving anyone who wishes, the chance to put our Citizen Scientist hats on and contribute to their BREAK 3 study. The purpose of the study is to “establish more specific guidelines for breaking up sedentary time”. They want to know what the ideal frequency and time spent taking non-sedentary breaks is, and aim to find the best application for acceptable movement in real-world conditions. To do this participants will spend 3 weeks remotely tracking their progress. For the first week participants will respond to multiple daily surveys which monitor their normal day to day activity. The next two weeks will involve the participant taking breaks out of their sedentary moments to do a timed activity like walking or stretching, and responding to daily surveys. At the end of the three weeks there will be an end-of-study survey. The initial survey itself takes 10-20 minutes and is a good start to get perspective of how you spend your days at work, and at home.

This is an awesome study that I think perfectly lines up with the core values of Peaceful Valley Village. We have the opportunity to be a part of this groundbreaking research that will help not only better ourselves, but possibly the world.

Overall I think being mindful about our screen time and how much we are sitting is a great start. The second step is action. If we find ourselves thinking “oh I have been sitting and staring at a screen for over an hour now.” Like Keith says, that is the best time to get up and move. When we are working we can go for a walk or do standing stretches. When we are home we can work on replacing “excess' screentime with healthy alternatives like walking around your neighborhood, reading, meditation, exercising ect. The more we use tech and the more it replaces jobs and tasks; the more we must do for ourselves so we can use our tools we were born with, rather than letting them get rusty and dusty in the shed. We are all born with beautiful bodies and minds, so let's work together to keep them healthy, and us happy!

Now, after all this time i've spent writing this and being sedentary, I think I’ll go for a walk and do some yoga. Have a beautiful day, and thank you for being a part of the Peaceful Valley community. Please take the time to be a part of this study!

Listen to the podcast here

Become a Citizen Scientist here

Check out Keith's study here

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