Is Sitting Killing Us?


Instinctively, we know sitting for extended periods of time is not good for us. However, we typically attribute the primary adverse health consequences of excessive sitting to be more ergonomic related. You know issues like carpel tunnel syndrome, rounded shoulders or lower back pain.  Well it turns out body structure and posture issues are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to our overall health.

Numerous research studies in the new field of ‘inactivity research’ discovered sitting for prolonged periods of time is much more damaging then once believed.  In fact too much sitting can significantly reduce life expectancy. Moreover exercise alone will not necessarily undo all the internal damage.  Sitting just 3-hours a day can shave 2-years off your life expectancy.

Even if we punctuate a long day of tapping away at a keyboard with vigorous exercise we are still 16% more likely to acquire a chronic disease such as cancer, diabetes, or cardiovascular disease than someone who sits less.  Exasperate numerous hours of sitting with high levels of stress, or worse yet a sedentary lifestyle and the propensity for premature death or chronic disease rises exponentially.

The recommendation is 5-minutes of standing for every 30-minutes of sitting.  Okay, so your current job requires a lot of daily sitting and your weekly paycheck pays the mortgage.  I get it! As an athlete and fitness professional I thrive on movement and activity.  However, as a health educator I spend numerous hours doing research and writing.  I deal with this issue every day.

From a biomechanical perspective our bodies were designed for movement.  Muscles are happiest when there is a load or resistance placed upon them.  Without load bearing weight muscles begin to atrophy, and very quickly, within 72 hours of non-use.  When certain muscles atrophy other muscles have to overcompensate for the weaker ones.  This creates muscle imbalances and dysfunctional body movement patterning.

Repetitive sitting over long periods of time makes the body very unhappy, and marks the beginning of dysfunctional body structure patterning, which in turn is the primary culprit of bodily pain.  Now we have negative internal-based health issues to worry about as well.

So what is the answer?  How do we compensate for prolonged sitting?

The answer lies in finding creative ways to add more movement into our work life, and daily life in general. We have been conditioned through our modern, convenience-based environment to sit.   We used to be hunters and gatherers. Then we became farmers and with modernization, technology, and the industrial age we have become ultra-sedentary slugs.

It is no surprise our waistlines are ever expanding, while the excessively overweight and obese population borders on pandemic We must recondition, reeducate our bodies by incorporating more movement into our daily life. We can do this at work by adding in lots of mini-movement breaks throughout the day.

Here are three tips, which can add movement into your workday.

First, start your day with a light stretching routine and if it is logistically possible, start biking or walking to work.  Always use the stairs instead of the elevator.  When communicating with fellow associates get up and walk over to them instead of using email or the phone.  Walk to lunch and during your lunch hour.

Most importantly take mini-stand-up and stretch breaks throughout the day. During each mini- break do a series of diversified standing stretches. If you can include some resistance-based exercises like wall sits, plank holds, triceps dips, knee bends or even lunge walking.

Second, improve the ergonomics of your workstation.  Use a stand-up desk to increase the load on your lower body.  Stirworks makes one of the best smart stand-up desks on the market today!  They make premium high-quality premium stand-up desks with futuristic cutting edge technology that is mind blowing.

Third, another alternative is to use a Physio ball as a chair, which utilizes and strengthens your CORE and leg muscles for balance. Studies have shown when we sit our leg muscles are completely inactive promoting lower body musculature atrophy.

The point is we need find new creative ways to consistently be more active in our daily work life.  This requires us to become more vigilant and resourceful in finding ways to move our body.  The prominent feature of our environment is ‘sedentarism’.  We have become conditioned for comfort versus movement.  We must decondition our habitual conditioned body movement patterns, stand, stretch and move more often.  Incorporating physical activity into our daily life can lower the risk of a reduced quality of life and longevity.

On your off days get involved in outdoor activities like hiking, trekking, gardening, jump on a trampoline, or find indoor movement based activities like rock climbing, Zumba, Yoga or Pilates. Movement can be as simple as playing with the dog, your children, gardening, or tackling home improvement projects.

At night when you typically relax in front of the television do some stretching exercises as you watch your favorite sitcom. Better yet, cut your television time in half, put some headphones on and go for a walk while listening to your favorite audio book or music.

As a fitness professional, and health educator for over three decades I cannot stress enough how important movement is to our overall physical health and quality of life.  Today, most clients have moderate to severe dysfunctional body patterning and moderate to severe bodily pain.  

This was not the case before the computer age.  Posture and body structure concerns were virtually non-existent.  Often body structure and movement need to be addressed prior to any fitness training protocol.
Be the wiser and smarter minority by adding more movement into your workday and your daily life.  I have a stand-up desk is myself, which set to stand 65% of the time.  While writing this article I took numerous mini-breaks, stood up, stretched and walked around the house. Now it is my time to hit the gym.

What is an Introvert Personality Really?

It is very hip to label yourself an introvert.  Part of this is due to the well-researched, profound, well-written treatise by Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. Below are some of her findings.

Let's correct some misconceptions. Introversion is not about a preference to be alone. It's not about being anxious around other people. It is not about being overwhelmed by cortical activity in the absence of stimulation. Essentially, introversion is about deriving less reward from being the center of social attention. Getting the spotlight is not that important or fulfilling. Extroverts, in contrast, love social attention. It energizes them, it brings out their best qualities, and it bolsters their stamina, extemporaneous thinking, and productivity.

But not everyone can be easily classified as an introvert or extrovert. There are people whose personality style changes in predictable ways. I call them "situationally-bound extraverts." In my life, for whatever reason, large dinner parties where everyone sits around a table in a formal manner pull for my introverted side. Anyone who has been at a dinner party with me can attest to this. Just like anyone who leans toward introversion, this does not mean I am more introspective, creative, defensive, anxious, and it does not mean that I talk less. What it means is that I am uninterested in the spotlight in these particular situations because I don't find the attention beneficial, rewarding, or exciting. I would often rather have a small conversation at the table than run the room with stories or humor. In other situations, I love when the spotlight shifts in my direction.

Like me, your extroverted behaviors might be constrained in easily interpretative ways. Consider a brief atlas of social situations:
•    Unstructured situations with unclear rules and norms.
•    When there is a clear power imbalance between you and others present.
•    When you feel submissive.
•    When you feel dominant.
•    When your desired outcome conflicts with another persons outcome.
•    When you are open to a possible sexual or romantic liaison when there are more strangers than friends present.

What is important is to discover the "strong situations" that pull for particular sides of your personality (in this case, extroversion or introversion). The same level of importance can be said for knowing the predictable situations when the spotlight is more of a punishment than a reward to others who are a regular part of your social world. The leader that knows this has an edge in influence/persuasion. The parent that knows this can be more sensitive, empathetic force for acceptance and change. The romantic partner that knows this can create a more compassionate, loving atmosphere for a lifetime of shared and un-shared goals.

It is easy to talk about introverts and extroverts as if there is a clear divide between two groups of people. It is easy to take a test and pigeonhole ourselves as one or the other. In reality, we ignore the power of the situation. When we respond in a similar way to the same situation at different times, we can think of this particular situation as a trigger for how we behave. In this case, we can view situations as part of our personality.

Don't let yourself be classified as any simpler than necessary.  In the same vein, don't lean too heavily on positivity, as there are undeniable benefits to appreciating the shadow sides of your personality and to become whole.

Is Body Image More Important Than Body Awareness?

Body-image is our western culture's mantra.  More often than not the desire to lose weight is the primary catalyst that motivates us to clean up our diet and exercise somewhat more consistently.  However, peer pressure, the onslaught of commercial media advertising, and our societies standard of what an acceptable body should look like from a visual perspective, all play a critical role in our culture's obsession to look good.  

While there is nothing particularly wrong with wanting to look our best, in my experience, how we feel in the body we wear everyday is more important.  Why?  Because we take our body with us everywhere we go whether we like it or not.  

The body, mind, spirit system are not distinct, separate entities.  They are in fact the sum of a completely balanced system.  When the body/ mind system is out of alignment we are out of balance, and when we are out of balance we feel uncomfortable, scattered, discontent, frustrated, angry, or just plain lost.  Additionally, this is when the insecure need to control our external environment begins to rear its ugly head.

Our psychological history is alive and present in everything we do and in the way we do it.  This history is visible in the way we use our body, in the way we move, where we hold our tension, how we breathe, in our posture and in our physical structure.  Our body provides all the psychological information we need through "subtle body" cues to help us better understand the motivations behind our own behavior.  This is why body-awareness, connecting with the "wisdom of the body", allowing the body to have a voice and actually addressing the bodies' needs are so important.  

How our body feels is a much more accurate barometer of wholeness and health than what the scale reads or even how our body looks.

Yet, most of us go about our daily life without really paying attention to how intricately our body and mind are interconnected, unless of course there is pain in the body.  It is not until our body is in a certain degree of pain that we feel a sudden need to pay attention to our body's internal voice.  However, often we do so with the sole intention of relieving the pain as quickly as possible so we can once again go about our daily life.

The problem with this one-sided relationship regarding one's body is that we demand so much from our bodies, but rarely stop to listen or hear what the body needs.  We expect our body to perform to our exact specifications without flaw.  If our body doesn't meet these expectations, or lets us down in some way, we do whatever it takes to fix "it", so "it" can once again perform up to our standards. We literally objectify our body as an unconnected and an unwelcome intrusion in our life when it does not adhere to our selfish desires.  Our body is not an "it"'.  Our body is very much alive and has a very long, long-term memory.

Think about this for a minute.  If you acted-out this selfishly in an intimate relationship how long does you think the relationship would last?  Probably, and much warranted, not very long.

We have a psychological term for this behavior.  We call it "narcissism".  The irony is that today in our culture narcissistic personality disorder, self-absorption and entitlement issues are rampant.  In fact we often unconsciously admire these self-involved qualities in others because it has become such a consistent "fixed way of being" in our culture.

The allure of celebrities, professional athletes and boisterous politicians are a prime example.  Ever heard of the Kardashians?  Their appeal is so enthralling that we spend countless hours following their crazy lives. We buy their clothes, shoes and perfume.  What about the name Trump?  In fact narcissism and ego-based behavior are so pervasive sometimes we even vote for them without even a second thought.

As a Whole Body/ Soul Health Coach I have trained many of Hollywood's most recognizable faces over the last two decades.  As a Celebrity Trainer I am probably the last person you would expect to criticize body image.  As a Somatic "body/ mind" Depth Psychologist I have an obligation in my profession to acknowledge the elephant in the room.  

If body image is the primary reason we think we should eat healthy and exercise consistently why then is our society the sickest it's ever been?   Why are chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and obesity at an all time high?  Why are our children contracting these same chronic diseases, which used to be found only in adults?  Why are anti-depressants, anti-anxiety medications, statins and pain medication sales at an all time high?  Why are adverse lifestyle behaviors and chronic stress the western medical communities primary health concern? Because approximately 90% of all doctor visits are lifestyle behavioral related.  These medical issues could have been prevented had we as individuals, and as a society, made better lifestyle choices.

Maybe if we switched our priorities 180 degrees from looking good "body image", to feeling good "body awareness" in the body we wear everyday we would be healthier and happier!

Don't get me wrong.  I am not saying body image is not important.  It is, because our society says it is.  Often our self-esteem, identity, and in some cases even our vocation, are all wrapped up in how our body looks.  I am no exception.  As an athlete and fitness professional I have spent much of my life training for various sports, in several martial art disciplines and training for general fitness.  

Make no mistake about it; I am proud of the way I developed my own body, my training expertise, and my track record of success in training clients.  However, several years ago there was a huge shift in my own mentality.  I ceased focusing on body image, shifted my attention to how I felt in my body, and began coaching my clients to develop a more conscious relationship with their own bodies.   

Something very strange happened within this process.  I found this shift in perspective to accelerate the speed by which I, and my clients, attained all of our body-image goals.  When we focus on how we feel in our body, work with the body, the entire system becomes aligned and supports all of our heath and fitness goals.  The bi-product is that our body transforms all on its own.   We do not need to obsess, battle, or force our body to change.  All systems want to be aligned and in balance.  Our body wants to be our best friend, not our worst enemy.  Our bodies just ask to be heard, to be given a voice. Remember our body, which is our unconscious, has a very long-term memory.

In my experience development of greater conscious body-awareness “how one feels in their body” is the most efficacious pathway for expedient body transformation.

Learning how to become more body aware is simple.  All good health practices require a little effort.  Learn how to stop, pause and literally ask your body how it feels today. Then take the time to listen instead of taking your body for granted.  Include your body in your daily internal conversations.  If you listen consciously, and with the intent of receiving a response I guarantee you will be pleasantly surprised when, and how, your body responds!