To slog or laze like a log

Kaushik Bhowmik | Published: October 05, 2018 18:59:07


Live lazy. Live long. This could most relievingly be your next mantra.

And so the coming Sunday you can afford to wake up, savour the steaming sip of your favourite tea and roll back into your bed cutting out the cacophony of your wife sprinting around the house with more than half the household chores she managed to wrap up by 8 in the morning. Or you may also afford to finish up your breakfast and sit back on the couch, eyes glued deep into the morning newspaper with the weekly grocery shopping left to the dogs.

While you attempt to slack, you may pull up every gut of yours to point to your wife - it's the survival of the laziest now. Better still, you may even cue her into googling up Britain's oldest man, Reg Dean, a former church minister, who lived through his 110th birthday and blatantly attributed his secret of longevity to 'being lazy'.

If Charles Darwin were alive today, he would have been required to rewire his theory. Following the new research, his survival of the fittest may end up drawing flak. While Darwin's theory has become a cliché of sorts over the years now, a recent study by a team of Kansas University scientists helps you to sit back and watch the world marathon.

According to Bruce Lieberman, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology who led the research, "the lower the metabolic rate, the more likely the species you belong to will survive. Instead of 'survival of the fittest', maybe a better metaphor for the history of life is 'survival of the laziest' or at least 'survival of the sluggish'.

The Kansas team examined 299 species of marine creatures like gastropods (snails and slugs) and bivalves (mussels and scallops). These creatures lived in the Western Atlantic Ocean for more than five million years from the mid-Pliocene to the present. On calculating the resting metabolic rates for each species, the scientists found that energy use differed markedly for the 178 species that had gone extinct compared with those that continue to live on until today. The results have been published in the August 2018 issue of the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

While Leiberman's new theory refutes the age-old one of Darwin's, he has an explanation up his sleeve: things that were more sluggish or lazy had lower energy or food requirements and thus could make do with little when times were bad.

Not just the long life of Reg Dean or the latest Kansas research. You surely have reasons to take heart from the world's oldest living sharks gliding deep inside the frigid waters around Greenland for the last few centuries. Scientists chanced upon twenty-eight of these female sharks bearing Latin name - ironical it may sound - Somniosus microcephalus, which means "sleepy small-head" and published their findings in the 2016 issue of the journal Science under the title "Eye lens radiocarbon reveals centuries of longevity in the Greenland". Using carbon dating of the eye lens of these creatures, the researchers estimated their age in the range of 272 to 512 years. Since carbon dating is not an exact evaluator of time, the researchers settled in between chronicling the oldest living shark to be about 400 years old.

 It's not the leisurely gliding of the sharks that make them see more years, merely treading 4,297 steps a day Indians have earned a not so good name for being one of the laziest communities in the world as per a Stanford University study published in a 2017 Nature journal.  Indonesia, the worst of the lot in the list of 46 countries surveyed, walked 3,513 steps a day. Interestingly, the 2015 World Health Organisation report on the average life expectancy put Indonesians enjoying an autumn more with 69.1 years vis-a-vis 68.3 years for Indians. Indonesians proved the laziest lives longer.

You glide slow, walk less. Dump all your errands and hit the bed for an hour long afternoon nap and you add extra years to your life. So says Dr Junxin Li, lead researcher at the American Health in Ageing Foundation. His team examined 3,000 adults over the age of 65. The study found that non-nappers experienced about the same decline in their mental abilities that a five-year increase in age would be expected to cause. Those who snored away in bed developed higher cognitive function in addition to celebrating more birthdays.

Workaholics in the corporate world would find this hard to digest - nap more. So advocates Arrianna Huffington, founder and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post. In her 2016 New York Times best seller, "The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time", she endorses success and good life to good lazying aka sleeping.

And finally, as we turn to the internet, we have Google waiting to make us go sloth. Known as the "Google Effect", researchers from Columbia University, University of Wisconsin-Madison and Harvard published their study in the 2011 Science journal on how having so much information readily available to us via the internet affects our memory and makes us torpid. Going by the Kansas research, we can hope to count more on the number of years as we happily google away.

Being lazy is one of the most underrated, misunderstood forms of human existence. Dr. Peter Axt, a professor of health science at Fulda University in Germany, has written a book, "The Joy of Laziness: Why Life Is Better Slower - and How to Get There." In the book he says, the key to happiness isn't money or possessions but free time to enjoy life. Happiness comes from within. When you slow down and smell the roses, the joy of laziness sets you free.

Though being lazy is a tough task, it calls for perfection from often being interrupted by periods of excessive activity caused by inevitable external forces, like your education, employment, marriage, divorce, employment, illness of your near ones. As Dr. Axt opines, if you work at it long and hard enough, you can turn laziness into an art form. And this art is the potion for your long life.

kaushik.bhowmik@gmail.com

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