The Remote Control: Society’s Downfall or Genius Innovation?

Modern society gets a lot of flak, particularly the younger generation, for being lazy, unmotivated, unappreciative…you get the drill, and you’ve heard it before. Technology is often blamed for our less-active lifestyles, thanks to advancements like remote controls that allow us to happily consume hours upon hours of television and other media without leaving the couch. Is the remote control a genius invention, has it contributed to today’s less-active lifestyles?


Image credit: chatirygirl via Morguefile

Sedentary Living Creates Big Health Risks

According to Dr. Richard Weiler and Dr. Emmanuel Stamatakis in a BBC News article, “Sedentary living is the most prevalent disease, biggest silent killer and greatest health threat facing developed countries.”

And technology is partly to blame, they say. “Time, energy and money-saving advances have mechanised our way of life and reduced the amount of time we spend moving.” But can we blame technology like remote control entirely for the lifestyle shift? Certainly, there’s an emerging trend of fitness and healthy living – take a look at Google and you’ll find thousands of blogs written by fitness enthusiasts, personal trainers, dieticians and everyday people who thrive on eating clean and staying fit. And those blogs often have thousands of loyal followers, thirsting for tips and tricks for eating right and getting in plenty of exercise.

Aren’t You Getting Enough Exercise Already?

Technology has created a world of constant connectivity, and as a result, workaholics abound. We’re constantly running from place to place, behind schedule, catching meetings, traveling to conferences, and working furiously on tablets and laptops even during the morning and evening commute. The always-on, always-working mentality means, for many, that there’s not a lot of time for exercising.

All that activity would lead you to believe that you’re getting plenty of exercise, but that’s not necessarily true – depending on your profession. Think about it: You might be sitting the majority of the day at the office, sitting on the train or in your car on your way to and from work, and sitting at home when you’re relaxing from your exhausting, stress-filled day at the office. You might feel exhausted, but chances are you didn’t get as much physical activity in your day as you think.

It’s an issue that’s getting some attention. Health insurers and employers are increasingly implementing wellness programs, offering employees incentives for participating in various activities like joining a gym, walking during the lunch hour or learning about chronic illnesses through web-based training.

Blame the Remote for Lazy Lifestyles

Remote controls are an excellent example of how technology enables laziness. Is remote control to blame for sedentary lifestyles?

Remote controls trace back to 1898 when Nikola Tesla demonstrated the world’s first remote-controlled boat. It wasn’t until the 1980’s, however, that remote controls started using the infrared technology that’s still readily used today. And today, we can control everything from our televisions to garage doors, ceiling fans and air conditioners using remote control. That means you don’t have to get up to turn the channel, crank up the AC or lift your garage door when you get home from work. It’s certainly a modern convenience, but think about all the physical steps you’re missing by being able to control all these devices from the comfort of your couch – or car.

Ordinarily, you’d be walking back and forth to the television a few times to change channels. You’d have to put your car in park, get out, walk to the garage door and rely on your physical strength to open it. It doesn’t seem like much, but all those little steps add up throughout the course of a day to quite a bit of physical activity.

Adults Fail to Meet Physical Activity Guidelines

Most adults in the U.S. – 79 percent, in fact – don’t meet the Physical Activity Guidelines, which recommend two and a half hours of moderate aerobic activity per week, or one hour and 15 minutes of high-intensity aerobic activity each week. Depending on the research you consult, the picture can be even more depressing. The National Cancer Institute found that only 5 percent of adults in the U.S. get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity each day, obtained in durations of 10 minutes or more.  And that doesn’t include the weekly muscle-strengthening recommendations: two sessions per week.

Clearly, ditching the remote controls that exist in your daily life isn’t going to help you with 10-minute bouts of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each day. It doesn’t take 10 minutes to stroll to the television and hit the channel button. But it certainly wouldn’t hurt you to take a few more steps throughout the day where you can.

Working in a Workout

There are simple ways to get enough exercise in your day.

  • Take a brisk walk or bike to the office a few days each week. If it takes 30 minutes to bicycle to the office, that counts as your daily dose of moderate activity. Fill in the other days with muscle-strengthening activities, such as working with resistance bands, doing push-ups or sit-ups, or a combination.
  • Everyday tasks like mowing the lawn and gardening count, too. If it takes 30 minutes to mow the lawn, that counts as moderate-intensity aerobic activity, while gardening qualifies as muscle strengthening.
  • Combine a few days of aerobic dance class with a few days of weight lifting at your local gym or YMCA. Some corporations are making it easier for employees to get their daily dose of physical activity by placing fitness centers on the premises – so you can hop across the hall for a brisk walk on the treadmill during lunch, grab a quick shower and be back to your desk in ample time.

It’s easy to blame an outside factor like remote controls, or technology in general, as society’s wellness downfall. But looking at the facts makes it clear that this can’t be fully to blame. If you work to make daily exercising a habit, it will soon come second nature and you can regain control of your health. When adults get enough exercise, they reduce their risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol and other chronic conditions that can reduce longevity and impact your daily life. Your health is worth 30 minutes of your time each day.


Angela Stringfellow is a freelance writer specializing in health, wellness and green living, senior care and lifestyles, as well as business and technology.

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