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Overcoming inactivity: What would Grandma do?

Reclaiming methods of the past may help to change the future of health

Remember the days before Uber Eats and online shopping? Spiders did web design and wireless referred to a device your Nan used to tune in to the BBC.

Modern conveniences have many upsides, but with technology advances, words like “sedentary” have also entered our vocabularies, along with warnings about the health effects of reduced physical movement.

We are paying the price for moving less and less.

In Australia, more than 65 per cent of adults are overweight or obese, and almost half the population has one or more chronic conditions, reports the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Inactivity contributes to diseases such as diabetes, bowel cancer, uterine cancer, dementia, breast cancer, coronary heart disease and stroke. Yet more than 40 per cent of adults spend most of their day sitting.

Chances are, sitting still was a luxury for Grandma. She never thought about the need to ‘exercise’ because elbow grease and regular bouts of movement were necessary parts of life.

In many ways, life today is a lot easier, but we are still strapped for time and people struggle to fit enough activity into each day.

What if, occasionally, we paused to ask: “What would Grandma do?” Could it present an active alternative to our sedentary decisions?

Channelling Gran

Consider the following health benefits that Gran would have received while going about her day, and whether they could still bring some good:

Chase some fresh air and sunshine

Who needs a machine for drying clothes when the trusted Hills Hoist will have them dry in a jiffy? Hang the washing on a fine day for a dose of movement and energy-giving vitamin D.

Water the garden in lieu of a fancy timed sprinkler or start a veggie patch in the backyard to get a healthy fix of the great outdoors.


In the post-war era, broken items were repaired until they no longer served their purpose. Making and mending were skills tied to a manual lifestyle. Today, that mindset could translate to something as simple as saving kitchen scraps for compost; get bonus activity from turning the pile and tending the garden.

Embark on a DIY project such as furniture upholstery or sand and paint a cherished piece to restoration. Learn how to fix a punctured bike tyre for greater confidence on your next ride.

Cook and connect

Rediscover wholesome recipes through family favourites. From casseroles and curries to simple slow-cooking and inspiring cakes for special occasions, homemade recipes offer an opportunity for less-processed, clean eating. While you are cooking you are moving too. Preparing dishes can also become a family event, promoting communal health and connection.

Choose markets for fresh food

Avoid the temptation aisles at the shops, walk and browse to get your steps in, and reduce reliance on processed and packaged foods.

Walk where possible

Avoid the hassle of parking and pop down to the shops on foot to pick up a few supplies. Swap the trolley to carry lighter loads for a core, arm and back strength boost. It’s likely you’ll stick to the shopping list this way, too.

Dance socially

Styles, etiquette, and music change but since the dawn of time, cultures everywhere have expressed themselves through the magic of dance. Gran did it, her Gran did it … surely it’s a tradition worth saving? Try one of our dance resources.

Go natural

Use fewer toxic ingredients for cleaning: eucalyptus oil for floors, vinegar for glass, bicarb soda for toilet bowls. Avoiding harsh chemicals in cleaning products saves money, helps the environment and calls for some trusted elbow grease. You get a two for one benefit when you swap machine power for a bit of muscle every now and then—clean and be active at the same time. As Gran would no doubt attest: “A little bit of hard work never hurt anyone…”




Last updated: September 26, 2023 at: 11:22 pm