Move well and move often: it’s smart advice for maintaining a strong, healthy body from head-to-toe, inside and out. With mounting evidence of the ill-effects associated with sitting too much, moving well has become essential for living well.
The way your body functions is in direct relation to its structure and vice versa. To get a better understanding of this relationship, let’s talk cars.
Imagine you drive a beat-up VW Bug. Your little Bug isn’t designed to accelerate quickly. It doesn’t handle turns with finesse. The way your VW Bug moves is dictated by its structure.
Now, let’s put you in a Porsche. This car handles turns better than a rollercoaster. It accelerates like a rocket and can practically stop on a dime. But if you don’t perform routine maintenance, all that beautiful form is for naught and your Porsche no longer functions well. Form determines function and how well you care for function affects form. Now, back to your body….
Our body’s innate intelligence creates movement patterns that are in dynamic play between form and function, influenced by the type of care we give our body. This complex interaction includes the skeleton, connective tissues like ligaments and tendons, muscles, joints, our breathing, heart function and posture.
Sitting is Killing Us
We sit on average, about 14 hours a day: at meals, in traffic, at school or work, in front of devices and TVs. Prolonged sitting can increase our risk for obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. It’s a primary culprit in these health problems:
- Chronic back, hip and neck pain: related to weakened core muscles and shortened ligaments connecting the hips and thighs.
- Shallow breathing (reduced respiratory capacity): related to compression of the respiratory muscles while sitting and tightness in the accessory muscles around the rib cage, shoulders and neck.
- Gastrointestinal issues and indigestion: related to reduced circulation to, and persistalsis in the gut.
- Low energy level, depressed mood: related to lack of engagement of systems that produce hormones and other substances that elevate mood.
But, I go to the gym…
Even if you exercise at a gym, or fitness walk for an hour each day, you’re still sitting too much for that one hour to make a real difference. Leisurely, periodic movement is critical to lowering your risk for chronic health problems and even early death. Some ideas:
- Every 30 minutes, stand/walk for about 10 minutes.
- Stand while talking on the phone, using a device, or watching television.
- Try a standing desk or improvise with a high table or counter; invest in a specialized treadmill desk.
- Walk with colleagues for meetings instead of sitting in a conference room.
- Once an hour, stand and breathe deeply for five minutes.
- Strengthen and stretch with standing yoga poses.
- Try apps designed to remind you to move and stretch during work hours.
Enjoy the benefits of getting up and moving, which include . . .
- Burning additional calories, which can lead to weight loss and increased energy.
- Better digestion, the result of light movement after meals.
- Support for the respiratory system’s role in helping the body remove waste and toxins; movement gives the muscles “room to breathe” and placing less stress on joints, muscle and ligaments.
If you have chronic pain or other problems associated with too much sitting, make an appointment with an orthopedist first, and then a physical therapist, who can perform a thorough postural and biomechanical assessment.