Thursday, September 4, 2014

Get UP and Move

Most people in modern societies spend the majority of their time indoors, sitting on their butts (like you're probably doing right now). The typical U.S. adult is sedentary for 60 percent of their waking hours and sits for an average of six hours per day (and often much more, in the case of those who work primarily on computers). 

Scientists at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana analyzed the lifestyles of more than 17,000 men and women over about 13 years, and found that people who sit for most of the day are 54 percent more likely to die of heart attacks. The results of this inactivity study Opens new window were published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

Another study found that those who sat the most had the highest mortality, not just from heart-related disease, but from cancer deaths as well, said the study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. Those who sat a lot but did some exercise fared better than those who just sat, but sitting more than six hours a day impacted the mortality of all subjects, no matter what else they did.

You’ve probably experienced those moments when you get up from a sitting position and your butt feels numb and your hips feel so tight that you have to lean forward at the waist just to walk. Excessive sitting leaves your hips and legs tight and your glutes inactive. Even after you stand up, the ill effects of sitting stay with you and may prevent your butt muscles from firing at an optimal level when you really need them.

Your glutes, or butt muscles, are your body's largest muscle group. So if they aren't functioning properly, you won't be able to squat or deadlift as much weight, and you won't burn as much fat. After all, muscles burn calories. And that makes your glutes a powerful furnace for fat—a furnace that's probably been switched off if you spend most of the day on your duff.

Weak glutes as well as tight hip flexors cause your pelvis to tilt forward. This puts stress on your lumbar spine, resulting in lower-back pain. It also pushes your belly out, which gives you a protruding gut even if you don't have an ounce of fat. The changes to your muscles and posture from sitting are so small that you won't notice them at first. But as you reach your 30s, 40s, 50s, and beyond, they'll gradually become worse and a lot harder to fix.

If you spend a lot of time with your shoulders and upper back slumped over a keyboard, this eventually becomes your normal posture. "That's not just an issue in terms of how you look; it frequently leads to chronic neck and shoulder pain.

People who frequently cross their legs a certain way can experience hip imbalances. This makes your entire lower body less stable, which decreases your agility and athletic performance and increases your risk for injuries.

Prevention Is the Best Remedy: Sit Less and Move More



The best thing you can do for your hip mobility and glute activation is to simply sit less and move more during the day. For optimal health we should reduce sitting time and increase "non-exercise" physical activity.

The best way to achieve this is corporating physical activity throughout your day in addition to performing distinct periods of exercise - walking for at least 50 percent of the day, and not sitting for more than two hours at a time without taking a short standing or walking break.

Work at a standing desk. Many employers permit this now, and more will follow once they understand the potential benefits in terms of reduced absenteeism, lower health care costs and higher productivity in their employees.

Work at a treadmill desk. If you want to take a standing desk to the next level, and you work at home or have a progressive employer, try a treadmill desk.

Walk or bicycle to work. This isn't always possible, but with a little creativity it often is. If you live too far away to walk or ride exclusively, consider driving part of the way and walking or cycling for the remainder.

Take a standing or walking break. Stand up for at least two minutes every hour. If possible, take a brief walk or do some light stretching. Even short breaks like this can make a big difference. If you have trouble remembering to do this, try setting an alarm on your phone each time you sit down again.

Stand up at meetings. If you're worried about what your colleagues might think, just tell them you have a bad back!

Sit more actively. Sitting inactively in a chair isn't the only way to sit. Consider sitting on a yoga ball for periods of time instead of a chair, or place an "active sitting disc" on your chair and sit on that. Both of these options will force you to make small postural adjustments while you're sitting, which mitigates some of the harmful effects of being sedentary. These micro-movements can add up to a significant expenditure of calories throughout the day.

Poor health is not caused by something you don't have; it's caused by disturbing something that you already have. Healthy is not something that you need to get, it's something you have already if you don't disturb it. ~Dean Ornish


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