Picture this, it's 4:00 pm, and after putting in some seriously long hours at your desk, you decide to log off of work early. What your boss doesn't know won't hurt them… or even better, you are your own boss, and you are giving yourself the afternoon! You are pumped because you'll be able to make the 4:30 pm group class at your gym, and today's workout involves lots of squats—your fave. You put on a cute gym outfit and head out the door. You get to the gym right on time, and after the coach leads you through a warm-up, it's finally game time. The workout is 30 clean and jerks for time, and you and your powerful legs are ready to CRUSH. It's 3,2, 1...Go, and you pick up the bar to lift, and then… BAM. Your legs are feeling weak; your hips are tight, and... was that a slight tweak in your low back? You don't understand! This weight is light, and you should be feeling great! You warmed up enough, so why does your body feel so off? It's not like you did much today… you just sat at your desk and worked…. Wait, could it have been all the sitting you did today ( and every day)?
We sit for hours at a time and then expect to go to the gym and hit workouts hard. That's like making your body go from 0-100 in .0099 seconds (I know this is not real, but I am exaggerating to make a point). The point is we can't expect our bodies to go from sedentary to explosive and active without eventually risking injury. Not only does sitting affect our performance in the gym, but it also affects our overall health.
So how can we support our bodies instead of harming them? We can arm ourselves with information and make small but manageable changes.
This 5 min TED-ED video gives a concise explanation as to why sitting for long periods of time is not healthy for the human body. CLICK HERE TO LISTEN.
Didn't take 5 minutes to watch the video? Let me break it down for you.
"Why do we sit so much?"
Our bodies were not built to be sedentary for very long. We are meant for movement. Now that more people are working remotely and online, we have created a life that requires us to sit for extended periods. And because our world is centered around sitting, we have had to figure out ways to get us more active: standing desks, spin bike desks, and smartwatches. We have turned to technology to remind us to move. This isn't a bad thing necessarily. It is just our way of trying to make sure we stay healthy.
"How is my body made for movement?"
- We have over 360 joints and about 700 skeletal muscles inside of us that are built for easy, fluid motion.
- Our body's unique physical structure gives us the ability to stand up straight against the pull of gravity.
- Our blood depends on us moving around to circulate properly.
- Our nerve cells benefit from movement, and our skin is elastic, meaning it molds to our motions.
This is all to say that everything about us is meant for movement!
"So, what happens when I don't move?"
For one, our spinal structure takes a hit. Our spine is a long structure made of bones and the cartilage discs that sit between them. Joints, muscles, and ligaments that are attached to the bones hold it all together. When we sit, many of us slump our shoulders and curve our back. This position puts uneven pressure on the spine. Over time, this causes wear and tear on your spinal discs and overworks certain ligaments and joints. It also strains muscles that stretch to accommodate the back's curved position. This curved position shrinks your chest cavity, meaning your lungs have less space to expand into when you breathe. This is a problem because it temporarily limits the amount of oxygen that fills your lungs and filters into your blood. We need plenty of oxygen to thrive and be on our A-game! This brings up the other fact that sitting for long periods and being stationary also reduces blood flow and the amount of oxygen entering your bloodstream through your lungs. Your brain requires both of those things to stay sharp and alert, so your concentration levels will most likely dip when your brain activity slows. Your brain activity may slow because you don't have ample oxygen flowing.
What can I do to combat the negative effects of sitting?
Well, besides changing your work at home environment to standing desks or special yoga balls or stretching 30 min in between Zoom meetings, movement may be your friend in fighting sitting repercussions (such as tight hips, aching neck, and lower back).
The next time you are set up to sit down, I want you to try this;
Set a timer, and every 30-45 min I want you to get up and do:
10 Air Squats
This will help open up your hips and get some blood circulating through your body after sitting.
Simple. Easy. But will pack a punch and benefit your body greatly.
Can't do these movements? Well, there are plenty of other options!
- Get up and walk for 15-20 min.
- Walk down the hall and back.
- Stretch for 5 min.
- Go take out the trash.
- Have a dance party.
These are just a few ideas, but the point is to get you up and moving. Because moving more throughout your day will not only help you in the gym, but also it will help you and your overall health.
Give your body what it needs, movement!