What Does Modern Body Syndrome Look Like?


In the last essay, we presented a theory of evolution that looked toward the future rather than backwards as a reflection of what has already happened. In this, the second of the three part series, we discuss what it means to embody some of the symptoms ofModern Body Syndrome.

During a recent workshop, we asked a room full of people, ranging in age from their twenties through forties, to raise their hand if they were in any sort of pain. Approximately 80% of the people in that room expressed themselves as experiencing pain on some level.

Asked next for a show of hands as to how many of those people regularly take pain relievers, approximately 75% of the people in the room raised their hands in agreement. This was alarming, because we were simply talking about over the counter pain relievers, such as Advil and Aleve, not the stronger stuff.

But what happens when the pain persists? We all know about the opioid addiction problem. Lots of people in pain. Doctors are trained to relieve pain. Too many drugs = addiction = death.

Prescriptions for opioid drugs have increased 300% in the past decade. In 2014, nearly 2 million Americans either abused or were prescribed opioids  [1]. Overdose deaths involving opioids have quadrulpuled since 1999, and so have sales of these prescription drugs. Every day, more than 1,000 people are treated in emergency rooms for misuse of prescription opioids [2]. In 2015, 15,000 Americans died from legally prescribed opioid drugs. And these are the drugs that are prescribed, legally, by doctors.

The connection between increased inactivity and an increase in opioid addiction cannot be underestimated. With all the research that speaks to the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle, it’s no wonder there is widespread muscular and skeletal pain that plagues populations across generations.

If the people in the room for our workshop represent a cross-section of our society, how can we not draw a link between the effects our modern life has on our own physical structure, the ensuing discomfort and even injuries from which we suffer, and, even further, a connection to the rampant reliance on pain relieving drugs?

In doing research for this idea, we came across the following quote:




This is a quote by Marc Hamilton, a researcher at the inactivity physiology lab at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, LA.

This statement basically means that you can’t undo the damage of sitting for 10 hours each day (which is, just in case you didn’t know, the amount of time an average US citizen spends sitting each day) by engaging in 60 minutes of exercise each day. [3]

In essence, that’s like saying you can’t undo smoking a pack of cigarettes day with an hour of daily exercise.

But do you know what is really interesting about that quote?

Someone has a job researching INACTIVITY.

In a study conducted by epidemiologist Alpa Patel over the course of 14 years [4] , it was found that lack of exercise -- inactivity -- may actually be riskier to staying alive than being obese. They say it might be twice as risky.

They also say that men who sit more than 6 hours a day have a 20% higher death rate than men who sit 3 hours or less. For women, it’s 40% higher.

One can argue, too, that people who tend to sit more are at the outset less prone to exercise and movement and therefore likely more unhealthy. You can ask “Which comes first, the chicken or the egg?”

But digging deeper, we found a 2010 study of 9000 participants found that each additional hour of television viewing increased the death risk by 11 percent. [5]  The researchers also asked themselves “well, couldn’t it be a number of other ailments the caused the increase in death rate?” So they did what scientists do and they researched that, too, and found that there was no link between:

“Age, sex, education, smoking, hypertension, waist circumference, body-mass index, glucose tolerance status and leisure time activity [that] did not significantly modify the associations between television viewing and all-cause...mortality”.

Chances are you spend a great deal of your day sitting at a desk, driving a car, or looking at your cell phone. This is our modern life. We have computers at desks. We have cars in which we sit to drive. We have playstations, televisions, iPhones, iPads, meetings and conferences. These trappings of modern life force our body to take a shape that defies proper posture and these behaviors can cause pain, decreased mobility, loss of strength and balance, digestive issues and more.

We asked ourselves: What exactly happens when we sit too long? When our posture is compromised? When we develop Modern Body Syndrome?

The answer is frightening:

When you sit:

  1. Your blood flows slower and muscles burn less fat. That makes it easier for those fats to clog your heart.

  2. Your pancreas gets wonky and begins to produce more insulin after just one day of excess sitting.

  3. Lung cancer increases 54%; uterine cancer increases 66% and colon cancer increases 30%

  4. Your muscles weaken -- especially your abdominal muscles, which you need to stand upright.

  5. Your hips tighten up, their range of motion is shortened and overall mobility in the hips decreases. This is of special importance as we age, as this decrease in hip mobility leads to an increase in falls.


And even more to think about:

When you sit for an extended period of time, your digestion slows because your abdominal cavity is cramped. This can lead to bloating, cramping, heartburn and constipation. As a matter of fact, a 2011 study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology concluded that physical activity should be used as a “primary treatment modality” for those suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

It’s alarming to think that a freaky idea of a Future Human with four fingers and a neck protruding from between the collar bones led us to uncover some hard facts about the multitude of issues that arise from a lifestyle without movement.


In the next installment, we’ll discuss strategies for combatting a life trapped behind a screen!

Allison KalschedComment