“Sitting is the new smoking.” Have you heard that one yet?
“Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV and is more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death,” says James Levine, a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic, in an interview in with the LA Times. “The chair is out to kill us.” Dr. Levine estimates that we spend more than half of our waking hours sitting down, either watching TV, driving or sitting at a desk at work or at home.
“We weren’t designed to sit” claims Dr. Joan Vernikos, former director of NASA’s Life Sciences Division and author of the Sitting Kills, Moving Heals. “The body is a perpetual motion machine.”
Or as I say, “Our couches are becoming our graves.”
While no one has articulated the science behind why sitting is so harmful here are my observations:
- More Oxygen: Moving leads to deeper breathing and hence more oxygen. While sitting leads to slower breathing and hence more toxic build up. Oxygen is extremely important to all the cells of our body. Without oxygen, we begin to die within three to four minutes. Perhaps sitting more creates an overall oxygen deficit resulting in accelerated aging.
- Better Circulation: Ever had your foot fall asleep? Then you know what can happen within a few minutes of stillness- our blood circulation literally stops. Moving creates an energy flow that keeps our circulation strong which is fundamental to our health. Circulation is critical for cell growth and organ function.
- Feel Alive: Moving naturally, dancing, hiking, throwing a ball, strolling, makes our cells feel alive, with purpose, with action. Sitting for long hours does the exact opposite. Ever find yourself yawning after you’ve been sitting for too long?
Now that we’ve all concluded that sitting is toxic, there’s a push to get us to exercise more. Get a trainer, join a gym, track 10,000 steps, spin cycle faster, lift harder, push push push …
But we are confusing exercise with movement. The cure for our sitting disease is not exercising harder.
It’s moving more!
Exercise can be boring, cortisol inducing, stressful and inflammatory if done wrong. Movement is pleasurable, playful, gentle, restorative, and effortless. Movement is about being active and alive instead of sedentary.
Making movement a part of your life may be the most important step you take towards health.
Movement is about living your life not sitting your life.
Don’t get me wrong- I love my Hot Yoga despite being told its depleting. I do it because it makes me feel great. I look forward to it. I feel AMAZING when I finish and often go for a long walk after it as I’m bursting with energy. So, hot yoga works for me. It may not work for you.
And that’s the key to health.
You have to find the right movement that leaves you joyful and looking forward to your next session. That’s the only truth, rest is capitalism in action telling you what you must lift or run or train for health. How can a stressful, cortisol inducing, hard pushing exercise create health?
So how can you move 3 more hours a day? Let’s start with defining movement first.
What is movement?
It’s our body’s natural impulse to stroll, stand, dance, throw, bend, leap, twirl, squat, hug, twirl, jump and more. Just watch a child on any given day and you’ll see that they are in constant motion! When they get happy they jump up and down. When they are sad they fling themselves or flay around their hands. They love to throw a ball or catch a frisbee or just run around playing. They run everywhere. They love bending and pulling on their toes. Or just dancing when music comes on.
That same desire to move is inside you, waiting to be released. While I discourage a physical tantrum, I do recommend adding some dance and play to your day along with standing and strolling.
Here is a 4 step plan to get you moving today!
Step 1: Track Your Sitting
- Sitting at Work
- Sitting at Home
- Sitting on the Weekends
Once you have a starting point of how many hours you sit, where and why you can move on to Step 2.
Step 2: Add 1 Movement a Day
The key to this step is to experiment, stay open-minded and track how you feel with each movement. Then create a short list of what you love to make it into an effortless lifestyle. Your goal is to have 4 to 5 hours of daily movement on average. Yes, it’s doable!
Here are some examples of movement you can try out:
Sitting at Work:
- Stand at Work:
If you have an office job that involves sitting 8 hours a day, incorporating standing instead of standing is an easy change. According to Dr. Buckley standing three to four hours a day is equivalent to running about 10 marathons a year. Another statistic says you can burn 30,000 more calories or about 8 pounds of fat a year by standing instead of sitting. More importantly, standing leads to a healthier heart. beats diabetes, increases lifespan. reduces the risk of cancer and more. You could stand for just 30 minutes every 2 hours to start. Perhaps stand when you are on phone calls.
- Walk and Talk:
We all do a lot of calls at work. Imagine if you did your calls while walking outside in fresh air! ‘If a medication existed which had a similar effect to physical activity like walking, it would be regarded as a “wonder drug” or a “miracle cure”’ (England’s Chief Medical Officer 2010).
– Do your calls while walking
– Have walking meetings
- Strolling Lunch:
Lunch is yet another daily activity we all do but usually seated. While its very healthy to sit and enjoy your lunch, a simple way to bring in movement and take in some sun is to stroll and enjoy your lunch. Perhaps there’s a pond or a park you can stroll with your lunch and give your body a beautiful lunchtime break.
- Play at Work:
Bring in an indoor basketball hoop and shoot some hoops during the day. Or perhaps you love golf, in which case an indoor putting green will do. Some offices in Silicon Valley have an entire area dedicated to table tennis and other sports. Start playing at work to get more movement.
- Climb Stairs:
Skip the elevator and take the stairs everywhere, even at client sites. You will be in good company as Jeff Bezos is known to do that too.
- Park Far:
Instead of looking for the closest parking spot, try to find one about 10 to 15 minutes walk away then do a brisk walk to work.
Sitting at Home:
- Breakfast with Birds:
Instead of eating while sitting why not grab your breakfast and go for a quick walk around the block or walk before you eat. There’s something about walking first thing in the morning that keeps you moving all day!
- Stand or Stroll and Stream:
If you’re a TV watcher with daily soaps or shows to watch then this is a simple way to add standing to your day. Add a tall bar table in your TV area and stand and watch while sipping your tea or drink. You can also try watching your shows during the day while strolling. It’s less bizarre than it sounds! You can stream pretty much any show these days via your cell phone so you can stream and stroll.
- Dance and Watch:
There are fun ways to incorporate dance into your TV watching. If you watch dancing with the stars, stand up and dance!
- Sing and Watch:
Watching American Idol or the Voice? Stand and sing along or dance to the songs being sung.
- Lift and Watch:
Keep some weights (2 pounds to 5 pounds or more) and as you watch just lift some weights and build some fat burning muscle. For women over 45 years this weight-bearing exercise can also be a saviour for your bone health.
- Walk and Talk:
If you love chatting with your friends on the phone, start chatting and walking! Try to do at least 30 minutes a day of walking while you catch up with friends. Then find a route which is 1 hour long and see if you can catch up with all your friends while you do the 1-hour loop!
- Strolling Lunch:
Grab a nice bagged lunch and go for a stroll to a pond or a park then enjoy your lunch there on a bench or on the grass. Then stroll back rejuvenated with sun and movement.
- Stroll after Dinner:
I grew up with my parents going for a nice long after dinner stroll every single day. It was also their time to catch up on their day and talk about their dreams. Somehow we lost that beautifully bonding family experience with the dog and children running up ahead and Mom and Dad a few feet behind strolling through the moonlight. I blame television and the 200 + channels for that. You can bring it back!
- Play Every day:
It’s so easy to incorporate play, you just have to plan for it initially. Whether its installing a basketball hoop outside or a dartboard inside, you can add some play time to your day time easily. Find what you love then play it daily. My new thing is an indoor trampoline, and I am in love with jumping on it with music on right before I have my lunch or in between my interviews.
- Self-massage, Yoga, Tai Chi:
Nothing calms the body better than slow gentle controlled movements with deep breathing. Both Yoga and Tai Chi are known to move the body in healing ways. Put on a Youtube video and follow along, this stuff is not hard!
Sitting on Weekends:
- Join a Group:
The easiest way to add activities is to join a group! Check out your local Meetup groups and find a few activities to try. If you fall in love with one of them it will make you look forward to your weekend activity.
- Go Walking or Bike Riding:
There are no excuses to be sitting on the weekend! Find a friend and go for a morning walk, bike or hike.
- Learn New:
Find a new activity to learn weekly, maybe salsa dancing or surfing or skateboarding
- Play Activities:
Instead of meeting friends for dinner plan bowling or bocce or something else that’s a fun activity.
- Walk and Shop:
Park far away while grocery shopping or going to the mall.
- Zumba or UJam:
Find a club that offers dance workouts like Zumba
- Double Up:
If you already do movement on the weekends try to double the time you spend doing it.
Step 3: Make it a lifestyle
Experimenting is easy but change for good is hard. This is the most important step where you make movement a natural part of your life. The easiest way to do that is to repetitively do step 2 for at least 40 days. Another key is to only do activities you enjoy otherwise they won’t last long enough to become part of your healthier new lifestyle.
Do you have other ideas on how to incorporate more movement? Please share with our community in the comments below!
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