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Is modern life making us ill - and what can we do about it?

Vybarr Cregan-Reid, the author of Primate Change: How the world we made is making us, argues that the way we live our life is affecting our health – from sedentary working to staying indoors – and unless we change our habits it will only get worse.

BBC Radio 5 Live spoke to Vybarr Cregan-Reid and to Chris Hammond, Professor of Ophthalmology at King's College London, about five small changes you can make.

Click here to listen to the interview on BBC Sounds.

1. Get a standing desk

Vybarr says: “We tend to think of physically fit and being sedentary as being two separate things, but you can be physically fit and still suffer from sedentary behaviours.

"[I was] alarmed about the amount of time I spend sitting down so I immediately got a desk where I could work standing up.”

2. Invest in houseplants

Another of Vybarr’s changes was to introduce some greenery into his home.

“I got lots of houseplants. I recently went round our flat and counted them up and I have 47!

“If you are an asthmatic, houseplants could be a really good option, they reduce lots of allergens from the air, much more efficiently than any kind of snazzy air filter can do.”

3. Take a walk

Vybarr says: “If you live a rural life, it requires you to stay moderately active" - something which is more difficult in a city.

“I now walk a couple of miles to a coffee shop where I’ll do an hour of work. It means that my sedentary work gets interrupted regularly by activity.”

4. Get outside (your eyes will thank you)

Vybarr says: “When we stopped moving as a species and started farming… one of the things we started to do was build temporary shelters to live in. We now spend most of our time indoors and it’s having all kinds of harmful effects on our bodies.

“There’s all kinds of ways that indoor life is affecting our bodies, but I think the most significant is short-sightedness (myopia).”

Chris Hammond, Professor of Ophthalmology at King's College London, adds:

Outdoor light is better than indoor light."
Professor Chris Hammond

“We saw this huge epidemic of myopia in East Asia. 96% of young men in Seoul in South Korea are short-sighted.

“Probably between 40 and 50% of young adults are short sighted in Western Europe [and] it’s going up.

“Light levels are important and outdoor activity, be it sport or leisure, [protects] children from being short-sighted

“So send your kids out to play…even in grey England, outdoor light is better than indoor light.”

5. Stop using your phone in bed

Professor Chris Hammond says there is no proof that blue light is bad for your eyes, but it can affect the amount of sleep you get:

“Blue light wakes you up in the morning and your body stops releasing the sleep hormone called melatonin, so clearly the current recommendations are you shouldn’t be using blue screens before you go to bed because in effect it might be keeping your body awake.”