Move of the Month - Sitting is the New Smoking! by Jimmi Stanton
It's curveball time!
As I began to collect my thoughts to write a new "Move of the Month" segment I felt a compelling need for this segment to adapt and evolve to include a broader range of valuable subject matter. The fitness industry is full of mediocre trainers who throw a mishmash of flavor-of-the-moment exercises at their clients with little to no forethought put into organizing a legitimate training program. The trainers in question tend to rely on outdated exercise science from a dusty old book they haven't cracked in years; YouTube or Instagram videos they've recently watched (think of the glut of "booty building" social media models who are basically pumping out soft core porn); or, worst of all, some new miracle gadget being marketed to the masses that has little to no actual value as a training tool.
I have a few names I use to refer to this pure laziness -- the most G-rated being "Fitness Entertainment"
. . . And I'm declaring this a fitness entertainment No Fly Zone!
Let's spend some time decompressing from all of the Fitness Entertainment that plagues the gym and address one of the most important "moves" you should be doing (but probably are not): lots and LOTS of low-level movement.
"Sitting is the new smoking!"
I've seen that catchphrase thrown about recently by various publications. And while it may be treading close to the deep waters of hyperbole, I do tend to agree with the sentiment. Our culture is increasingly more sedentary. We sit while commuting in our cars; we sit while we eat; we sit behind computers while we work; and to relax at the end of the day we sit on the couch and watch television. The net result is FAR less movement than our ancestors -- so much so that it's contributing to the risk of diseases of modern life like cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. Sitting directly affects that last one by inhibiting the activity of an enzyme called lipoprotein lipase which is integral to your body's ability to burn fat as a fuel source.
Sitting is also horrible for your posture and spinal health. When walking, standing, and moving transitionally you are using your abdominal, pelvic, and leg muscles to support all of the weight of your muscles, organs, and bones. But when sitting for long periods of time you are placing the majority of that load onto your spine and pelvis -- distorting the natural lordotic and kyphotic S-shaped curve of your spine into a C-shape. And long-term wear and tear caused by that spinal distortion can lead to some pretty nasty structural and neurological issues.
So, that's the bad news . . . But here's the worse news: per obesity expert and Mayo Clinic professor James A. Levine, M.D., Ph.D. there is mounting scientific evidence showing that 60-90 minutes of daily exercise does little to counteract a day's worth of sitting.
“It is almost like sort of owning a really cool sports car and letting it idle all day long. The engine gets gunked up. That's what happens to our bodies. The body, as we know, simply isn't built to sit all day,”
- Dr. James Levine
So, what do we do?
We get moving!
I want to reiterate that sitting all day long and then attempting to make up for it by hitting the gym or going for a run IS NOT what we're talking about here. New research by people like biochemist Marc T. Hamilton, Ph.D. is showing that sitting for long periods of time has a deleterious effect on an entirely different set of biomechanical processes than what you’re able to stimulate with concentrated exercise. That means you literally CANNOT out train your chair. No, rather, what you need to do is devise ways to break up those long periods of “chair time” throughout your day.
But, "how?" you may ask. There is no simple formula, magic pill, or "EASY" button that's going to immediately add more movement into your life. You're going to have to put on your "adult" hat and deliberately plan ways to add more movement into your regular life schedule. This may take some time and effort put towards overcoming resistance during the adjustment period. But all of that up-front effort will pay off greatly by vastly improving many aspects of your long-term health and wellness. Let's take a look at some strategies that can get you up and out of the chair.
First and foremost, get outside! Hiking, low-level biking, and swimming are some of the easiest and best ways to get in low-level movement. Go to a park with your dog, family, or friends and throw around a frisbee or football -- take a mitt and baseball and play catch. Walk there if you can. Also, involvement in outdoor sport-hobbies like skiing, surfing, golf, disc golf, SUP, etc. all will do the trick as well.
Being outside is great, and getting some sunlight on your skin has the added benefit of helping up your endogenous production of Vitamin D. However if inclement weather is a challenge for you in the winter months -- and if you're not a huge fan of things like skiing, snowboarding, or snow shoeing – try getting involved in league sports like basketball, indoor soccer, or ice hockey. Maybe tennis is your thing -- find an indoor court. The more low-level movement, the better. It all adds up, and it all helps.
However, it’s even more important for you to devise and plan ways to inject movement into your daily work routine -- especially if you spend the majority of your productive hours sitting in a chair staring at a computer monitor. Let's address a few strategies that can help:
· Use an exercise ball in place of a standard office chair.
· Add a standup or adjustable workstation if you have the means to do so. The more you're able to adjust your position throughout the day the better.
· Look into getting a wireless headset that allows you to stand up and move around during phone calls, especially if you spend a large amount of time on the phone during the day (just be sure to be courteous towards coworkers in your area).
· Schedule 10-minute breaks as often as possible to get up out of your chair and do some light stretching or to take a short walk (if you're familiar with the Original Strength Resets they would be a great way to break up all of that chair time).
· Consider scheduling walking meetings with colleagues in place of normal sit-down events.
· Get a small container for water and get up to refill it every hour -- use the water source that’s the furthest from your workstation if possible (this has the added benefit of ensuring good hydration).
· Choose parking lot spaces furthest away from the entrance when you go to places like the grocery store.
· Before and/or after your commute set a 5-10 minute timer on your phone and walk until the alarm rings, then walk back to your transportation.
Hopefully this gives you some ideas to work with to start building a plan to get your body up and out of the chair and moving more. But if you still feel stuck -- if all of this information is too daunting for you to find a starting point -- try this: set a goal to get outside and move one mile a day for one month. This foolproof formula is one of Jim Beaumont's staples for his clients at Idaho Kettlebell Strength & Conditioning.
You may have heard the common fitness adage, "you can't out-train your diet." Well, guess what, you can't out-train your chair either. So get up and GET MOVING!