The efficiency paradox, or, long life inefficiency!

According to the dictionary, a paradox is a seemingly contradictory statement.

Efficiency is good, right? Or is it? What if it comes with side effects? I had to think of this as I made two choices today to move more than I had to.

Modern society values efficiency

Modern man is used to doing everything as efficiently as possible. Time is money, after all. So we drive to the mall, are thrilled when we find a parking space in front of the store entrance. We take the most efficient route through the store and drive back home. Mission accomplished!

Sometimes striving for efficiency has unwanted side effects though. And since I’m a postural therapist you can bet it has to do with posture.

We sit all day, or at least most of us sit most of the day. Then we make it a sport to park as close to the entrance as possible, and take the elevator. This is all very efficient. But you are probably getting a feeling where this is going. We lack quality movement. The body is a motion machine and needs to be fueled with quality movement just as much as we need to provide food and water.

A 15-second walk from the parking lot to the elevator is not going to cut it. So that is why I am asking you to be a little less efficient. I’ll give you some examples later on.

Lazyness is good

From an evolutionary standpoint, humans have learned to be as lazy as possible, conserving energy. Because you never know when your next meal is. You might not find the herd of animals you are hunting or the berries you are picking. But in these modern times the food is always there, a short drive away. So the focus has shifted from getting enough calories to survive, to burning enough calories to maintain a healthy weight, for most people.

“Use it or lose it”, is a well known expression that is also valid here. If we don’t use our postural muscles and don’t take our joints through their complete range of motion we will lose function, and as a result our muscles will put our joints in a position that is not ideal. Our head will be forward. Our pelvis will become tucked under and one hip might be higher.

Moving more and better can save your life

This is not a joke. Movement can save your life or at least your independence. I know of a senior who insisted on not getting a stairlift as going up and down the stairs kept him functional enough to live on his own. Had he opted for a stairlift and getting rid of all the thresholds in his apartment, his function and posture would have suffered.

What can you do to make your life a little less efficient? Here are some tips:

  • Cycle where you normally take the car and walk where you would normally cycle to your destination
  • Get off the bus a stop earlier (or later). If you’re early for the bus, walk to the previous or the next stop.
  • Don’t take the elevator (all the way). If you need to be on the 31st floor, you might not walk the entire distance but you could take the elevator to the 30th or 32nd floor and walk up or down. And next time walk 2 floors.
  • If you have to be on an escalator, walk instead of just standing there.
  • If you’re working from home, go to the toilet on another floor if you can. That way you use the stairs twice. If you’re in the office, take the toilet that is not the closest one.
  • If you’re in a meeting, make it a walking meeting, preferably outside, if you can. If you have to make a phone call, stand up or walk, again preferably outside.
  • Park further from the entrance. This is one of the easiest things you can do as the chance of finding a parking space will increase!
  • Once in a while do something crazy like walk to the city center even if it takes you 45 minutes or an hour! Try to enjoy the journey and you will see things you haven’t seen before!

Don’t be so efficient!

It takes a little practice NOT to be efficient but if you consider the benefits to your health and posture you will gladly make these changes! Due to evolutionary reasons though, you have to keep making these choices every day! Try to do what you can to make your life less efficient! Your body will thank you!

If you have questions I’m here for you!