Sitting still is killing us, warns journalist Peter Walker in his new book Miracle Pill

  • The Miracle Pill, by Peter Walker. Simon & Schuster, $32.99.

There's a major new health pandemic in our midst, warns Peter Walker in the non-fiction equivalent of sounding a loud warning bell.

It's more lethal than Covid-19, deadlier than smoking and prematurely snuffs out more than 5.3 million people a year.

What is this disease? It is inactivity and Walker's book, a blend of memoir, reportage and summarised science, is intended to jolt us out of our torpor and get us moving.

We live in a world where everything from technological innovations to the designs of modern cities have tipped many of us into slothfulness.

Excessive sitting and slouching in front of screens is making us tubbier and more prone to lifestyle diseases as well as early onset cognitive dysfunction.

In the UK, where Walker works as a journalist, "healthy life expectancy" (the period where you can live without some age-related impairment) is going down.

All is not lost. Walker's "miracle pill" is not something that can be sourced from the vitamins aisle in the chemist, but consists of nothing much more regular brisk exercise.

A saunter or walking up the stairs instead of using the lift is good for adults, while kids walking to school instead of being ferried in a short car journey will seed good habits in them.

So far, so obvious, but other parts of Morgan's manifesto for change are unexpected.

He's not overly keen on gyms because they are elitist, and lull us into not finding opportunities for every day exertion.

Neither is he a fan of skateboard parks as they become quickly the preserve of boys alone and are not welcoming environments for girls.

He does like counting steps and is a big fan of e-bikes because they nudge people out of driving.

The Miracle Pill is among several recent books to focus on the physical and mental health benefits of regular exercise. They include Shane O'Mara's In Praise of Walking and Perfect Motion by Canberra's own Jono Lineen.

Walker's book feels more instructional than others in this mini-genre.

Occasionally he can come across as a bit of a scold, but his admonishments certainly wrought some positive effects in me in the days since I finished the book. I hope they last.

The release of the book feels well-timed as we stagger into March, months away from half-forgotten New Year's resolutions and bombarded with chocolate eggs and hot-cross buns in our supermarkets.

Given the topic, I suggest listening to it as an audio book on a brisk walk, rather than reading it slumped in an armchair.

This story Read this to jolt yourself out of your torpor first appeared on The Canberra Times.