Welcome to my newsletter! I've got fitness and nutrition tips to help you reach your goals.
I'm dedicating this issue to fighting the root of all evil: sitting. Excessive sitting harms our physical and mental health. Let's reverse this situation by adding more movement into our lives and finding happiness!
Is Sitting the Root
of All Evil?
From my experience, I find that prolonged sitting is the cause of most challenges my clients face. People sit at their desk at work, sit in their car on the way home, then sit more on the couch watching TV. A day full of sitting takes its toll on physical and mental health.
Together, we can reverse this harmful situation. By simply standing up, you begin to return your body to it's fully functional abilities. You'll also find happiness through less stress and more energy!
Take a look at some of the many ways excessive sitting harms your body and mind--and how you can stop it:
Inactivity from prolonged sitting means that you burn so few calories that weight gain is inevitable.
If you need to lose fat, your first step is spending less time on your butt and more on your feet. Begin by finding ways to move more during your day. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk your mail to the post office, or take your bike instead of driving. Next, be sure to include daily cardiovascular exercise to get your heartrate up and burn fat. I recommend all my clients do a minimum of 30 minutes of cardio daily (see article below for cardio tips).
Boredom, Stress, and Loss of Energy
Sitting restricts the freedom of our minds, preventing social interaction, play time, and stress relief.
By finding ways to move your body, you can free your mind from the chains of the chair. Get outside to enjoy sunlight. Find movement in everyday activities. Plan social activities which involve physical activity and fun, like participating in a sports league or going dancing with friends. Get the endorphins flowing! I guarantee you'll find improved alertness, a more optimistic outlook, and less stress!
Muscle Weakness and Tightness
When seated, some muscles are perpetually shortened while others are lengthened. This situation leads to chronic muscle tightness and weakness.
My goal in training sessions is to help you address muscle imbalances. For instance, when you sit, your hamstrings in the back of your legs are in a fixed, shortened state. This situation leads to chronically tight and weak hamstring muscles. The remedy is to do exercises which lengthen these muscles while building strength with resistance training.
When sitting, most people slouch with the head and shoulders rounded forward. The lumbar (lower) spine is also pulled out of its natural arch into a straightened position, putting stress on the lower back's muscles, ligaments, and discs.
When I work with clients, I strive to reverse postural problems from poor sitting habits. To get you upright again, I prescribe exercises to strengthen your upper back and shoulders, stretch your front side, and strengthen core muscles.
The Art of Sitting
When You Sit, Make Sure to Use Correct Ergonomics
If you need to sit at work, it's important to use correct ergonomics. This means positioning your work environment so you maintain good posture. I want to help you avoid injuries like back pain, nerve damage in your wrist (carpal tunnel syndrome), and neck strains.
Given the amount of time you spend sitting, it's important to educate yourself on how to adjust your workstation. Take time to make sure it fits your body size. Let me give you some tips on adjustments you can make to achieve perfect ergonomics.
1. Monitor Height
The top of your computer monitor should be positioned at eye level (most monitors are positioned too low). If your monitor stand doesn't enable you to raise it this high, you can put the monitor on a stack of books.
Your spine should be completely upright, perpendicular to the floor. Also notice that your head should be upright--not falling forward.
Your forearms should be level to the floor and arms relaxed at your side. If your forearms are not level, adjust the height of your chair or desk.
4. Lumbar Support
The spine in your lower back (lumbar region) has a natural arch. Your chair should have ample support for this area so that you maintain this arch. If your chair does not have this lumbar support, you can buy an air pillow with velcro straps. You can also create lumbar support quickly and cheaply by rolling up a towel and taping it to the back of your chair.
Your thighs should be level to the floor. Make the necessary adjustment to the height of your chair or use a footrest.
If your feet don't reach the floor, try a footrest. This relieves pressure on the back and legs.
If your job requires you to sit for much of the day, sooner or later you may feel pain in your back, neck, shoulder, hands, or wrists. You can avoid these problems by practicing the following strategies.
Improper posture is a primary cause of back, neck, and shoulder pain. To sit more comfortably, follow these tips:
- Use a chair that supports your lower back at the spine's lumbar curve.
- Keep your back, head, and neck at right angles to the floor. Keep your thighs and forearms parallel to it when you sit. Don't lean over your desk or keyboard.
- Keep your shoulders down, not hunched or pulled up toward your head.
- Use a footrest to make sitting more comfortable, relieve pressure on the back and legs, and improve circulation.
Hand and Wrist Protection
These tips can help you prevent pain in your hands and wrists:
- Keep your wrists flat and in a straight line with your forearms.
- When typing, touch the keys lightly and relax your hands when you pause between keystrokes.
- Don't rest your wrists or forearms against hard edges.
- Do active hand stretches before starting work and during short breaks. Use the hand's muscles to stretch rather than using the other hand.
- Keep your mouse near the keyboard. Don't grasp or tap it forcefully.
Take a stretch break every hour to relieve muscle tension with these stretches:
- Overall body stretch: Get out of your chair, lift your arms above your head and reach for the sky. Repeat 3 times.
- Shoulder-blade stretch: Clasp your hands together behind your back and pull your shoulder blades together. Repeat 3 times.
- Shoulder rolls: Slowly roll your shoulders 5 times forward, then 5 times backward.
- Head tilts: Slowly and gently tilt your head to the right, to the left, and forward. Stop when you feel a stretch. Repeat 2 times.
Cardiovascular Exercise Tips
Get Out of Your Seat
and Start Moving
When sitting for long periods of time has caused you to gain fat, it's time to address your cardiovascular exercise plan. If you want to lose fat, you have to use that stored energy by doing cardio! I encourage you to do these rhythmic, continuous exercises which elevate your heartrate and burn lots of fat.
Choose the Most Effective Cardio Exercises
Generally, the most effective exercises involve moving and lifting your body. This gets your heartrate its highest and burns the maximum calories. For example, you expend more calories running than biking because you're on your feet instead of seated. Be sure to pick exercises you enjoy, because I want you to stay with the plan!
Here are my favorite cardio exercises:
Beginner and Intermediate-Level Exercises:
- Elliptical machine
- Walking uphill on a treadmill
- Active dancing
- Aerobics classes
- Jumping rope
- Racquetball or squash
- Climbing stairs or Metro escalators
- Ultimate frisbee
- Kickboxing class
- Basketball (full court team play)
Find the Most Effective Intensity Level
There are several ways to monitor the appropriate intensity level for cardio exercises. The easiest is the "talk test." When you're exercising at the right intensity level, it should feel slightly uncomfortable to talk. If you can recite the Declaration of Independence with ease, pick up the pace! Conversely, if you can't utter your name, slow it down!
Make Cardio a Regular Part of Your Week
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends this amount of cardio each week:
3 sessions per week; 20 minutes each session
5 sessions per week; 60 minutes each session