As I sit peering out the window in seat 1F of a Boeing 737 on a Southwest flight back to sunny California to visit family (and go wedding dress shopping!), I am trying desperately to avoid making eye contact with the two folks seated next to me as I have woken them up several times now. Denver to Orange County is just shy of a two-hour flight, yet we are not even halfway in and I have been up and out of my seat twice now. More than the average flyer, I would say. Yes, I am that person in your row. The one who gets up numerous times, loiters outside of the bathroom for a set of lunges and side stretches, squats in the cramped lavatory, the weirdo who other passengers glare at, the person who makes already nervous fliers even more uneasy (I promise, I am just getting my blood flowing, folks!) – I am the one who does not sit still.
Although I have been involved in dance and sports since I was walking and out of diapers, apart from those activities, I was not always so adamant about movement. Outside of the pool, weight room, yoga or dance studio, I led a fairly sedentary lifestyle. What do I mean by that? When I was a competitive swimmer, I was also a college student. I sat through entire lectures, slouching in my seat, shoulders arched over, head bobbing as I lost focus and nearly drifted off to sleep to the soothing sounds of my professor’s voice.
Post graduation, I went on to work in the “real world.” Landing my first job as a corporate recruiter, I sat at a desk for hours on end, sifted through resumes, and craned my neck to keep the phone wedged between my ear and my shoulder so that I could continue the hunch over my keyboard, both hands working vigorously to find the perfect candidates for our clients. My next job, working as an operations manager at an aerospace manufacturing company, was the same deal, seated desk work once again. I loved both jobs even though sitting for long periods of time was the reality of it, as is the same for many of us – we sit at work, at the table for meals, watching television, commuting…
“The daily grind,” so they say.
I began making this shift into a more active, constantly moving lifestyle about two years ago. Why? Well, my fiancé moves all day long. Many people (as did I in when we first began to date) would say he fidgets. But I soon realized he chooses to stand as to not sit, he will do a few sprints before a road trip, he does squats and push-ups at random to perk up (he does not drink coffee, total freak) – he moves intentionally to keep his blood flowing.
It was an almost seamless transition for me. When your partner is constantly on the move, joining him/her becomes natural with time, and that is how I caught the jitter bug. I also felt like a lazy ass every time he did a set of burpees as I sat on the couch and ate an entire bucket of cookies whilst binge watching Game of Thrones.
This brings me to a point and term coined by author Diana Gerstacker of The Active Times, “Sitting is the new smoking.” It’s a worthwhile read, warning folks of the dangers that may come along with prolonged periods of sitting and sedentary habits like a higher risk of developing heart disease, obesity, Type 2 Diabetes, depression, certain types of cancer, increased susceptibility to muscular issues, and potential interference with the lipoprotein lipase in our body (LPLs – enzymes that break down fat and use it for energy).
Since this article was released back in 2014, we have seen a revolution of standing desks. You may have noticed some of your colleagues switching from sitting to standing at work, heck, your office may have even shelled out thousands of dollars to transition everyone from sitting to standing. Research shows standing at work increases productivity, but, is standing enough?
Many critics are saying standing is considered yet another sedentary position that presents us with a different set of problems – knee and hip issues, back strain, lower body muscle fatigue and eventual musculoskeletal disorders.
Kermit Davis, PhD of the Department of Environmental Health and Industrial Hygiene at the University of Cincinnati focuses his research on the effect of physical workplace demands as well as the mental workload and responses within the musculoskeletal system. He states in response to continuous standing or sitting, “The body does not like to have the same posture or load placed on it continuously, so change is always good. [You want] routine breaks where you get the blood moving.”
So, how do we practice body awareness and movement wherever we are? How to exercise, so to speak, all day long?
In the car:
- Flex and release the glutes to increase blood flow throughout the legs.
- Try a seated glute press. At red lights, press your hips up toward the steering wheel while engaging the glutes and slowly releasing, coming back into a seat – repeat until green light.
- Flex and point your toes to stretch calf muscles.
- On road trips, take breaks, walk around, go for a 2-3 minute jog.
At work, whether you sit or stand at your desk:
- Every 30 minutes, do 10 reps of an exercise of your choice – squats, lunges, push-ups, to name a few.
- Walk to a coworker or your boss if you need to communicate with them as opposed to emailing or dialing their extension.
- Practice the childhood dance, “Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes!” It will get your arms moving, you will feel a deep hamstring stretch, and it is a nice decompression for the low back.
- Note for standing desk folks: Try to actively stand, meaning squeeze the glutes and bring a slight bend to your knees which will automatically engage your core, hamstrings and quads. Voilà! Active standing!
- After a long commute, implement a miniature workout routine before anything else – 1 minute jumping jacks, 1 minute high knees, 20 push-ups, 50 crunches, 1 minute stretch.
- Utilize space! Move the coffee table aside, throw your throw pillows on the floor, get comfy, spread out for stretches, self massage, yoga and/or meditation.
- Hold a high plank or try mountain climbers for a quick “pick me up”.
- Opt for a ten-minute walk outside with your honey instead of thumbing mindlessly through Instagram or Facebook.
Now, would I consider my constant movement exercise? In a way, yes, although I do follow an exercise regimen separate from focusing on body awareness and movement throughout the day. But, by maintaining movement, I feel less pressure and less guilt if for some reason I am unable to get a workout in. There is much pressure around the term “exercise.” Like: “You need to exercise 5 times per week, fit in at least 30 minutes of cardio every day, go to yoga 12 times per week just to get your money’s worth at your studio,” etc.
What if we were to put aside our obsession with exercise? What if we were to simply focus on movement throughout the day as a way toward a more active and healthier lifestyle? I challenge you to begin your journey toward ever increasing body awareness and continuous movement… you may be surprised at the results!
Now, please excuse me as I wake my neighbors once more before touching down.
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