For all the eye rolls and grief we may have given our elders — and possibly occasionally still do — there is much value in the wisdom they’ve tried to impart. This was brought home to me recently through the findings of two different studies I came across.
The first was indeed startling. Preventive Magazine conducted a study utilizing data from 12,500 people ranging in ages from 6 to 84 who were tasked with wearing activity trackers. The activity trackers recorded how many hours participants spent sitting and how many hours they were active during the day.
What did the data show? Basically that our kids are in trouble. Remarkably, 60 year olds and 19 year olds spent about the same time being sedentary and inactive. According to the study, when it comes to physical activity, grandparents and teenagers have a lot in common. Who knew?
Experts recommend that children get an average of at least an hour of moderate to vigorous exercise each day. However, the data shows that for kids aged 6-11, 50 percent of girls and 25 percent of boys weren’t meeting this daily requirement. The percentages for teenagers were worse.
For high school aged kids, 75 percent of girls weren’t getting the minimum hour requirement of daily exercise nor were 50 percent of boys. It’s no wonder issues like obesity, diabetes and other health maladies, so common among adults, is afflicting children in such large numbers. For many of them, life is spent sitting on their rear-ends, not moving on their feet.
As the study’s senior author from the department of birthday statistics at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health observed of the findings: “It was definitely a big surprise.”
If you’re like me, this information is really mind blowing because as a kid I just wasn’t allowed to sit around for extended periods of time doing nothing — particularly in the house. Some may say it bordered on child abuse (not that I’m accusing you mom and dad) but even during the sweltering heat of summer here on the Alabama Gulf Coast, I was made to “go outside and find something to do!”
Sure, sometimes you could see steam rising from the pavement because it was so hot, or have heat induced hallucinations, but I and many other kids made the most of it and actually had a lot of fun.
We live in different times now. No one is advising that parents should put their kid(s) in jeopardy of having a heat stroke, but clearly there is an urgent need to stress a more active and healthy lifestyle. Have them put the laptops, tablets and smartphones down and go out and play!
The second study that caught my attention and made me contemplate the wisdom of elders revolves around the link between rest and productivity.
My first tour of duty in the military, the U.S. Air Force sent me overseas to Germany. I had rarely left the state of Alabama growing up, so leaving the country was definitely a first for me. I had much to learn.
While there I would also have to learn the importance of not burning myself out. When it comes to work, I’ve always been somewhat of a workaholic and a perfectionist. Working late hours, coming in on weekends, not wanting to take a vacation all became commonplace.
One day an old senior NCO pulled me aside and said, “son, if you have a nervous breakdown or a heart attack, you will be missed for a little while, but the military will quickly have a replacement for you. Work hard, but work smart. Rest is just as important as work.” I took what he said to heart.
Afterward and for the rest of my career I worked just as hard, really excelled at my job and made rank faster than average, but I did so in a way that was not injurious to my mental and physical health. With the help of that old but wise NCO, I learned the importance of stepping away. I found out that when I took time out to recharge my mind and body I became more productive, more focused and found greater enjoyment in my work.
This lesson I was taught some time ago aligns with a study conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management. What were some takeaways? Over 75 percent of HR managers surveyed saw a correlation between employees taking advantage of their vacation days and being more productive at work, performing on a higher level and being more satisfied with their jobs.
This study buttressed the “Refueling Principle” which basically states that “allowing our bodies and minds to rest and recharge results in better performance.” As an article in Entrepreneur magazine noted, “continous time on-task sets off strain reactions, such as stress, fatigue and negative mood, which drain focus and physical and emotional resources.”
Taking breaks during the work day, not working your weekend away, taking real vacations, quality, uninterrupted family/relationship time, are all keys to being highly productive and personally happy. We may think we have it all figured out, but I’ve learned that much of that old school wisdom remains refreshingly relevant.