It’s no secret that we all spend way too much time indoors and on digital devices. But what can we do about this?
Today I’ll cover why all this digital stimulation isn’t exactly ideal and offer tips on how to be more active. Some of these reasons you will know and agree with – but you may not be practicing them! Sometimes it is “easier said than done,” but don’t worry, we’ve all been there!
Let’s start with some stats on just how much screen time we indulge in — and what this is doing to our brains! Researchers have found that Internet addiction is associated with structural and functional changes in brain regions involving emotional processing, executive attention, decision-making and cognitive control. And – I would argue – we are all now addicted to the Internet. Some may be addicted to texting, playing games or watching TV – but all of these addictions are more or less the same, in terms of the effects on the people indulging in the activity. Which brings us to our first reason why you need to unplug…
1. Vitamin D
As scientists have found, vitamin D deficiency is now recognized as a pandemic. This means that the lack of this hormone (not really a vitamin – sorry!) is not just a nationwide problem – it is a worldwide problem. As you may have guessed, the major cause of vitamin D deficiency is a lack of sun exposure. Some are unaware of the major problems associated with vitamin D deficiency, as well as the fact that we cannot get vitamin D in adequate amounts from food.
The good news is that the solution here is simple: go outside! Just 15 minutes a day of sun exposure is all you need, and no, more is not better here, as too much sun can also be detrimental to your health. This is one of those “Goldilocks” problems – you need just the right amount. If you are really pushing things, you can supplement with vitamin D (2,000 IU to 4,000 IU should be an ideal amount) but as you’ll soon see, we need to get outside for other reasons, too!
Many of us do not get nearly enough exercise. Let me rephrase that: many of us do not get any exercise. This is an increasing problem, and another very important reason to get outside. A lack of exercise is a major cause of chronic disease. Conversely, it also shows you how important it is to unplug and get outside!
Again, the solution here is simple – go work out! There are truly no excuses – simply walking for 45 minutes per day has been shown to be beneficial. You don’t have to run a monthly marathon to enjoy the benefits of exercise. And if you have weight loss goals, exercise will be even more important, since it has been shown to release beta-endorphins. This will give you a nice boost of energy, helping to combat the lows, which can come with a diet that is suddenly low in sugar. Win-win!
3. Too Much Sitting
We are all sitting way too much, and it has been shown to shorten our lifespan as a result. Not good. Recent findings have shown that getting up every hour and walking around for a few minutes can help to combat this inactivity, and it also drives home our earlier point about getting our daily dose of exercise.
Ideally, though, you want to treat yourself to some outside time – enjoy the myriad benefits of fresh air! Even smelling objects outside has been scientifically shown to have positive effects. You won’t get that in a video game (yet, at least).
4. Too Much Screen Time
This is a big one, and it goes hand in hand with too much sitting. We spend upwards of 8 hours a day (some of us as much as 14) looking at digital screens. Quite simply, all this screen time is damaging our brains.
It is hugely beneficial to get away from screens, and we all should listen to this piece of advice (myself included). Enjoy a nice long walk in a park, join a pickup basketball game, participate in a softball league – there are many ways to enjoy being outside and get away from our screens. Go buy a bike at a local store – they are a great way to get outside and exercise without it feeling like exercise. These simple bits of advice are ones we know all too well — yet seldom listen to. Don’t keep making this mistake! Get a personal trainer if you really struggle with this – and have them train you outside.
You can start a bowling league, form a walking group – there are literally endless ways to get away from screens! Set a short-term goal – like running a 5K race – you will likely meet new people, and feel more inspired to continue exercising.
5. Get Social!
We are all socializing less and less, in real life. What we used to have in person-to-person communication, we now have in the digital realm. But socialization is an important part of optimal health. When we have a positive social interaction, we experience a slight increase in a neuropeptide called oxytocin – this is part of the feeling of hanging out with your best friend or a lover. But this can’t happen if we never unplug and get outside! This gives us all the more reason to reconnect with old friends – rather than your computer.
There are many easy ways to get more socialization in your life – join a book club, go to quiz nights, take up a group hobby, go see live music – the list is truly endless.
There are lots of reasons why we need to remember to unplug and get outside. The Paleo community is hopefully already aware of a large majority of these reasons, but it is always good to have a solid reminder. One overlooked secret to health is balance. It can be tough to keep all the many parts of our life in the right ratios – it is much easier to take too much from one area, and not invest enough in another. Do not make this mistake! Make sure you are getting off of digital devices and outside for at least 30 minutes every day. Your brain and body will thank you for it!
(Related: Why You Need a Digital Detox)