Living to excess
Against a backdrop of what seems to be endless global economic peril, we are all working longer and harder for less, whilst paying more for the privilege. The ultimate cost being our own health and well being with many finding their energy levels well and truly depleted (a factor helping to drive the $37billion+ energy drink market). This can sometimes be written off as the effects of ageing, and indeed energy levels do deplete with age. However there are those rare few ‘energiser bunnies’ amongst us who seem invulnerable to modern life. Those who seem able to pack more activity into one day than many of us could muster in a week, with a time machine. Whilst some of the factors separating the tired from the energetic may be out of our control (i.e medical/physiological conditions), the vast majority can be controlled and altered to help us not only survive but thrive in everyday life.
All life needs some resources to live. Work in some form or another is part of what life is about. However this has changed drastically and continues to do so. Cavemen would once hunt for enough food to feed themselves and their communities. As we became more intelligent we learned that more could accomplish more by working together and eventually we began to trade. Fast forward to the modern age and small local farming and business became industrialised before the advent of global banks and corporations. The result of this is that we now spend on average between 39-42 hours per week working.
For many of us the majority of the working day is spent sitting. Also with the spreading habit of ‘deskfesting‘, more and more people are eating both breakfast and lunch at their desks. As well very low calorie calorie expenditure, extended periods sitting can cause back pain and have a negative effect on posture and metabolism. Furthermore, being holed up in a office all day can be a minefield of allergy triggers. And then there’s stress. Work stress accounted for 40% of all work-related illness in the Labour Force Survey 2011-12. Whilst a little stress may not necessarily be a bad thing, prolonged stress can be devastating health. Finally comes the commute which can be not only stressful and expensive, but also a health hazard as you are herded into an enclosed space where contagions spread easily both through the air and via surface contact.
Work related health strain can be better managed by:
For many the long working day means that by the time they do arrive home they have neither the time or energy to prepare a fresh and nutritious meal. Furthermore, some cannot afford the cost of expensive organic food. Instead more and more people are turning to convenience food like ready meals and take aways which may be high in high in salt, saturated fat and unnecessary refine carbohydrates yet low in essential nutrients. The result of such a diet, amongst many health issues is increased lethargy, lack of energy and disruption to sleep. With low energy levels many partake in activities such as watching tv/films, reading books and gaming in their free-time. Whilst these can provide a stress release and stimulation for the brain, they are in no way physically demanding and too much can come at a cost to overall fitness. Also, over stimulation before bedtime can disrupt sleep.
Those with more energy who are perhaps more health conscious may go to a gym to run on a treadmill or lift weight. Getting enough of the right exercise is a good thing. But even this when taken to excess can cause harm. For example many health and fitness experts agree that excessive cardiovascular exercise (e.g Marathon running), causes more harm than good and can lead to lethal cardiovascular issues. Too much resistance exercise (e.g bodybuilding) can also cause issues due to the excessive strain on the muscles, joints, skeletal system and heart.
Our social lives are as important if not more so than our professional lives, but living to excess present a number of health hazards. Occasionally drinking alcohol in small amount may not present a major health risk, but drinking regularly to excess results not only in hangovers but also low energy levels and the potential for permanent liver damage. Those who experiment with narcotics are at greater risk of cardiovascular and nervous system conditions as well as an imbalance in hormones and brain chemistry which can result in depression, mood swings that can develop into serious mental conditions.
Social life related health strain can be better managed by:
- Planning ahead when buying food can avoid unhealthy quick fixes
- Eating less but higher quality food can be less expensive and more nutritious pound for pound