Have you ever signed up to a gym membership or an exercise class that you went to once or twice and then fell out of the habit? Committed to a running regime that lasted a week? Ever wondered why it’s so hard to stick to exercise?
Whilst I would agree that being sedentary (whether that’s in a sitting or standing or, well, any position) is not ideal for our health, I’d like to make a case for the difference between exercise and movement and make a few suggestions that that might help you not just break up periods of sedentarism (or stillness).
Our Palaeolithic or hunter-gatherer forebears would have had a much more movement-rich lifestyle that, whilst not exactly comfortable, left them stronger and fitter than today’s Olympians according to bone density evidence from fossil records. Hunting and foraging for food, finding water, constructing shelters, manufacturing tools, evading predators and a distinct lack of furniture would have meant that they had endurance and mobility simply because of what they did all day.
Relatively recently, in the last 100 years or so, technological advances have meant that bit by bit we have outsourced our movement to washing machines, vacuum cleaners and online shopping deliveries. Add to that the cities which are being built to prioritise cars over pedestrians and more and more, our environment both indoor and out does not assist us to move.
I’m not suggesting we all go and find a cave to live in, or completely shun all modern technology. I do, however, think it’s possible to reintroduce some elements of movement to our daily routine, instead of feeling guilty about all the exercise we’re not doing. Even those who are diligent enough to exercise regularly are still sedentary for a much larger proportion of their time than they’re moving, so learning to add a bit of richness to your daily movement can only be a good thing.
If there was a star on every one of your joints that was then connected in a constellation, can you imagine how the movement or lack of movement of every single star might have an effect on the rest of the constellation? Being sedentary for long periods of time isn’t just a cardio problem that can be balanced by a weekly spin class, it means that certain joints don’t move as well as others because they’re never required to do so, which means that when you do move, not all of you is moving as well as you’d hope.
Having to hike for miles a day with only leather hide to protect your feet would have meant that the 33 joints in your foot would have had lots of movement, and your calves and hamstrings would have had to lengthen as you walked over hilly and rocky terrain. Not having furniture would have meant that your core was always engaged as you held yourself up, and your joints would have been naturally mobile due to the fact that you only sat on the floor.
Foraging in trees would have meant that you could climb, and your shoulders would have been mobile enough to allow your arms overhead easily. A few simple ways to include a bit of this into your day might be: –
1. Sit at different heights from the floor to change the geometry of your joints sometimes.
Change your sitting position regularly, maybe twist your spine or cross one ankle over the
other knee to stretch your glutes.
2. Don’t always lean back on the chair, spend some of your sitting time with a neutral pelvis and stacked spine. Building up your endurance doing this is more effective than a few sit-ups but note that it’s important you don’t lift your chest too much which will eventually cause back pain. Feel that the front of your ribs is level with your hip bones to make sure your core is engaged.
3. Challenge yourself to get up and down from the floor regularly as this requires both strength and mobility.
4. Make sure your clothes are comfortable enough to allow you to reach your arms overhead, and reach up regularly to stretch your shoulders out. Stretch at a doorframe every time you walk through a door.
5. Have a tennis ball to hand so that you can stand on it to stretch your feet out any time you get a moment in the kitchen, or if you’re at a desk stand to take phone calls whilst stretching your feet.
6. Look at things in the distance. Your eyes have muscles too and they have to contract to look at things close up so give them a rest occasionally.
If you would like to learn how to make sure you’re moving more of you when you move, feel free to come along to a FREE TASTER CLASS to see whether Move-Free can help you.
About the author:
Georgina Ramos is a movement focused therapist based at the Sheffield Wellness Centre. She is trained in Pilates, among many other things but MoveFree is her take on several different fields and she has brought them together. This has enabled her to be able to treat people with a wide range of aches and pains through to insomnia and IBS.