Just like healthy foods nourish us and provide us with energy, movement is another vital “fuel” that we need to stay healthy. Let’s say you train at the gym a few days a week for an hour or so at a time – that’s enough activity, right? It’s probably enough training for most people’s goals, but it’s definitely not enough movement.
There is quite a lot of research that links long periods of sitting to heart disease, dementia, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, weight gain, increased anxiety, diabetes, certain types of cancers, and even premature death. Yikes! Not to mention, sitting for long stretches creates a huge amount of stress on your spine and can contribute to back and neck pain even if you sit with good posture (as I can attest to in dealing with my back injury lately.)
The reality of our modern world is that we were already spending a significant portion of our time seated... and then the pandemic made that even worse for many people. We work jobs that have us seated at a computer for most of the day. We spend our leisure time on the couch. Let’s say your 24 hours is broken down as follows: 8 hours at your desk at work, 8 hours sleeping, 1 hour commuting in the car, 2 hours on the couch watching TV, 1 hour seated eating meals, 1 hour at the gym, 3 hours for everything else like getting dressed and running errands etc. Actually, that doesn’t sound like a bad day – lots of us work way more than 8 hours, sleep way fewer than 8 hours and spend way more time than 1 hour in the car. But even in this scenario, this is still 83% of the day spent on your bum or your back - and that's on a day you made it to the gym to train!
Another reality of our sedentary lifestyle is that it actually makes our purposeful exercise harder than it should be. Our bodies adapt to what they are repeatedly exposed to. We get so used to not moving that it becomes harder and harder to move well when we show up for training. We might find ourselves making less progress with our fitness goals because we can't really safely challenge ourselves at the level we need to.
Our best hope of combatting the problems associated with sitting is to move more and sit less, but it can seem pretty impossible given the lifestyle described above. Fortunately this is where “movement snacks” come in, and I’ve got a few ideas to help you:
If you work at a desk, take a break at least once an hour for 10 minutes. You may not be able to do a joint mobility practice in your office (if you can, you should), but there is probably something you can do. Can you stand to do your next zoom meeting? Take a walk to go refill your water bottle? If you need to brainstorm with a co-worker, maybe you could walk and talk at the same time? Can you take a quick walk while you go get lunch? What about self massage – lots of our members bring their Therapy Balls to work and take mini-rollout breaks through out the day. Any new practice can be challenging at first, so be patient with yourself as you find the ways that work for you. You may have to set a timer to remind you to get up and move, but you will likely find you not only feel better, but are also more productive and less stressed out during your workday.
If you have long commutes, can you park a little farther away so you have a bit of a walk to your destination? Can you do a quick five minutes of stretching before you have to sit again? Is there an errand you can walk to instead of drive to?
When you come home at the end of the day, what if you recharged your batteries with a 15 minute walk after dinner, before watching TV? Or while watching TV, could you try standing and doing some self massage, joint mobility or stretching?
We may not be able to control many things about our modern lifestyles, but if we focus on "controlling the controllables" there are always steps we can take (pun intended) toward better health. We need to purposefully and proactively move more in our daily lives. Find the time for a few “movement snacks” throughout your day, and you’ll be amazed at how great you start to feel – both in and out of the gym!
Strength, love and happy snacking!
PS – This past week, we kicked off our Made to Move Challenge which is all about daily walking and self massage as a means of helping us move more. It's totally free, open to everyone, and it's not too late to join in! We will be offering another free rollout class in a few weeks for everyone who is participating and posting on social media, so don't miss out!