A wide-ranging self-help guide explores the potential perils of the modern sedentary, screen-obsessed lifestyle and offers tips for achieving resilient health and memory.
Madden (The Durable Human
Manifesto, 2013), a member of the National Association of Science Writers
and the Society of Environmental Journalists, warns that with their current
dependence on technology, humans are not only losing muscle mass and memory,
but also opening themselves up to the possibility of being superseded by
robots. She calls her proposed solution the “Triple Crown of Durability”:
self-reliance, genuine relationships, and curiosity. According to the author,
the barriers to healthy development are considerable, ranging from the
metabolic diseases associated with a sedentary lifestyle to the eye strain
caused by frequent screen use. She also frets over the energy emitted by Wi-Fi–enabled
devices, which she rather whimsically refers to as “The Glow.” A possible
association between cellphone use and cancer remains controversial, but a few
high-profile cases have made it at least seem prudent to use hands-free devices
whenever possible and not store cellphones and tablets on one’s person.
Luckily, this book is not all doom and gloom: rather than leaving it at plain
scaremongering, it lists straightforward mitigation strategies at every turn.
Madden enumerates simple ways to add more walking and standing to each workday
and suggests that cutting time with gadgets by spending more moments outside
contributes to better health and sleep, especially for children. Many problems
boil down to having an overloaded brain, she explains, so mindfulness and
decompression through music, conversation, or exercise are essential. Anecdotes
and everyday metaphors help to drive the lessons home. For instance, Madden was
forced to pay better attention when she fell off her folding bike because she
didn’t secure the handlebars properly. She deftly equates sleep to the body
performing a thorough cleanup of its systems like a dishwasher and compares
working memory to an often leaky bucket. Sometimes the book seems overly
indebted to opinions and quotations from other authors, but that doesn’t
significantly detract from how useful a compendium of knowledge it should prove
An all-too-relevant and eminently practical book
that offers health strategies in a gadget-packed world.