Movement - it's so simple, yet vital for life: Our bodies are designed to move in all different directions; we run, jump, walk, swim, bend forward, backwards and so on. It's movement that gives us healthy joints, strong bones, physical strength, good circulation; including cardiovascular circulation, good coordination and reflex reactivity; improved learning skills and concentration, and mental well-being. Without it we would deteriorate. In fact, excessive sitting is associated with 35 diseases and conditions such as back pain, obesity, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, cancer and depression. Countries such as Australia and Canada have declared excessive sitting as a catastrophe.
It has been shown that exercise improves a child’s school grades by 10-15%. Similarly people who become more active at work increase their productivity by 15%. So corporations should take note!
Presently in western society, an average person will sit for up to 10-13 hours per day, whereas our ancestors worked in the fields in an agricultural society and would sit for 3-4 hours per day. Plus they walked everywhere.. not like the average western person who takes a few steps into a car, drives to work and then sits for hours on end with very few breaks. It is not surprising that we have developed such ailments as a result. We are simply not designed for it.
How do we deal with our sedentary lifestyle? Take more breaks. Get up every half hour to an hour, and move. Stretch. Take a walk after lunch. Take the stairs instead of the lift, and maybe walk to a further bus stop or train station on route to and from work. Walk to your colleague in the office instead of sending an email. Walk to the local shops instead of driving.
Incorporate physical activity into your social life, and spend more time outdoors. Low impact and aerobic activity is what is needed. You don’t have to exercise heavily to get the benefits. If you are more inclined, play a sport, go to the gym, do weight training or cycle on a regular basis. If not just move. Move more frequently and regularly.
Exercises for the Sedentary Person
Range of motion of the spine
Bring your left ear to left shoulder, right ear to right shoulder. Turn your head to look over the left shoulder, and now your right shoulder. Look up to the ceiling and now down to the floor. Keeping your legs straight, run your left hand down the left side of your leg, and now the same on the right. Now flex forward to a comfortable position and now bend backwards, again only to a comfortable position. Keeping your legs stationary, twist to the left and now to the right. If any of these movements cause pain or discomfort stop that particular movement and report this to your practitioner.
Sit on the edge of a chair. Put your knees apart slightly and your feet under your knees. Arch your back. Rotate your arms outward so your palms face forward. Separate your fingers and point your thumb backward. Tuck in your chin. Hold this position while taking a deep breath in though your abdomen. Repeat 2-3 times per hour.
Start in a seated position, sitting tall, weight distributed, evenly through your heels. As you push yourself into a standing position, leaning gently over the legs and press through the feet into a standing position. To return to a seated position, sink back down into the heels, pushing the hips back, assume the sitting position again. Repeat. Be mindful to keep your back straight and flat, press into the heels to stay balanced. A variation of this exercise is squat behind a chair. Same movement with the chair in front on you to keep the balance. Hold onto the chair, feet shoulder width apart, sink your hips down and back, holding onto the chair for balance, back flat, go as far it feels comfortable. Press back up through your heels to a standing position.
Start with feet shoulder width apart, facing a wall, chest in an upright position and place your hands in front of your chest against the wall, bring your feet slightly back, keep body and spine straight, and then lower towards the wall and then push away from the wall. This can be done against a wall or on a counter top, desk etc.
Either in a seated or standing position, hold a small weight, for example, plastic bottles, chest lifted with arms either side, raise the arms out to side with arms extended, to the height of your shoulders. Return to starting position. Repeat.
In a seated or standing position, use a small weight, place your hands above your elbow and the weights either side of your shoulders, push your arms over your head (extend arms), bringing the weight together above your head. And back down. Repeat.
This works the lower back. Laying face down flat on the ground or bed, arms by your side, lift your torso by squeezing and hyperextending your lower back, and then relax. Lift up again, and relax. Repeat.
Bird Dog Kneeling on all fours, on your hands and knees, back flat, hands directly under your shoulders. Extend one arm and opposite leg at the same time, balancing on the other leg and arm. Do this slowly. Return to all four position and now extend the other arm and opposite leg at the same time. Repeat.
Lay on the floor, arms by your side, knees bent, feet close to your buttocks. From this position, press through your heels and drive your hips up towards the ceiling, squeezing into your buttocks. Then lower your hips down to the floor. Repeat.
This exercise works the core muscles. Starting on all fours (hands and knees), back flat, hands placed under your shoulders, lift your body onto your toes if you can. And hold this position with your back flat, and hips slightly above flat. If this is too challenging, return your body position onto your knees and hold this position tight.