As it becomes easier to live life without stepping outside your house it becomes more important to move more and sit less. This is a fundamental part of life programmed into our genes. As humans, we are built to move the amazing bodies we’ve been gifted with. With hard work, determination and proper attention to diet and recovery you can meticulously craft your body to be strong at what you choose. All these runners, athletes, bodybuilders have all started off as babies and through moving and using their bodies they have sculpted it into the muscle powerhouse it is today.
Move More And Sit Less
Why We Are Built To Move
If we go back hundreds of thousands of years ago (maybe more) then food was not readily available. As humans, we had to hunt and gather our food. This meant going out in groups, chasing down animals and cornering them, perhaps even running them down to the brink of exhaustion like the San Bushmen or setting up traditional snares and traps for prey. The alternative was to go out and forage in nature for plants which were safe to eat such as yams, starchy tubers, fruit, berries and other various plant foods.
What this means is we were constantly moving on a weekly basis. Sometimes after a village got a big kill like a deer they would’ve been able to feast on it for several days, perhaps a week or more, meaning they did not need to go out and hunt. Other days they would spend ages trying to track an animal and kill it. Movement was quite literally built into a part of our lives, but now some of us hardly travel one kilometre on our own two feet.
Even when they were sitting, they were not sitting in a chair in a stationary position for prolonged periods of time. The ways in which they sat involved deep squatting, kneeling down on one knee or two knees, sitting on the floor, crossing their legs and more. There was variety in the ways they sat which meant different muscle groups were engaged. This is very different from sitting in a chair and working on the laptop for over 2 hours at a time before taking a break.
Moving consistently meant we were expending energy from glucose, fats and ketones depending on what fuel source was available for our bodies to use. And on days we weren’t hunting or foraging, you can be sure that people in these villages were playing, building up their village with natural resources or participating in village festivities. They were active. And I believe we should try to implement more activity and movement into our daily lives to improve health.
Incorporating Movement Into Your Life
Movement is a great way to use your body and can improve various health biomarkers such as lowering blood sugar and triglycerides by keeping your muscles more active so the mitochondria are being utilised. Even standing can be more beneficial than sitting down since you are using your legs and core muscles to maintain good posture, this is one of the reasons adjustable standing desks have become more popular.
Barriers To Movement
Now whilst it is more difficult to incorporate movement into our lives, it is certainly possible. Some of the barriers which may make it more difficult to add more movement include:
- Long work commutes.
- A desk job or any job which involves a lot of sitting such as a bus or train driver.
- Watching long movies (and binge-watching TV shows).
- Having access to a lift or elevator so you choose not to take the stairs.
- The possibility to take a vehicular form of transport instead of walking or cycling.
- Being able to do more from your phone (while sitting) such as turning on the TV or even turning on the kettle.
- Being able to call people instead of meeting face to face.
Despite these issues, by changing your mindset towards movement and thinking of it as something essential to optimising your health you can easily incorporate it into your life.
Ways To Move More And Sit Less
Some ideas to move more and sit less include:
- Taking a quick five-minute break every hour at work for a brisk walk.
- Doing squats at the toilet.
- Every now and then (most likely at home) drop and do some push-ups.
- Taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Going for a walk whilst calling someone.
- Choosing to cycle into work or taking a route which involves more walking.
- Doing exercises such as sit-ups, plank or push-ups whilst watching TV.
- Incorporating microworkouts (short bursts of high-intensity activity).
- Doing chores around the house.
- Use a step tracker to meet a step goal of 10,000 steps per day.
- Fidgeting whilst sitting down e.g. stretching legs, isometrically contracting muscles, shifting your body slightly.
The Dangers Of Sitting
When you’re sitting your body is remaining relatively inactive. Studies have linked excessive sitting with being overweight and obese, certain types of cancer and type 2 diabetes. A study found a link between long periods of leisure time sitting and a higher risk of death from all causes, including eight of the ten most common causes of death. Note that sleeping does not count as sitting.
The NHS has an article detailing why we should sit less. It mentions a study where a link between illness and sitting first emerged in the 1950s when researchers found London bus drivers were twice as likely to have a heart attack as their bus conductor colleagues. I certainly think that sitting is something we should try and do less of, and we should try to move our bodies more.
Beware Active-Couch Potato Syndrome
Active couch potato syndrome refers to the person who exercises intensely once or twice a day, but then because their exercise has left them exhausted they remain relatively sedentary and sit for most of the remaining hours of the day. A 2012 study conducted by the National Institutes of Health concluded that sitting for several hours a day is bad for you, even if you are physically active. This emphasises the importance of not just exercise, but being active frequently. Even if you exercise at a moderate intensity for 150 minutes weekly, the widely suggested recommendation for weekly exercise, it does not reverse the harmful effects of sitting.
The takeaway? Don’t be a couch potato. Don’t be an active couch potato. Move.
Sitting Less For Those Who Have To Sit
Some jobs inherently involve a lot of sitting down such as being a bus or train driver which makes it hard to move frequently. You may be sat down for most of the time but you can do exercises which activate different muscle groups within the body to try and ‘move’ your body and use your muscles. If you’re a driver, please be sure to be completely in control (I accept no liability) of the vehicle you’re driving before implementing any of these suggestions to move more:
- Do some exercise in the morning before work e.g. a light walk or gym class.
- During stops pull your shoulder blades back for 10 reps or move your arms.
- Stretch your arms a bit whilst driving.
- Tense your abs or shake your legs, maybe raise your bum slightly above the seat for a few seconds (at a stop).
There’s not always much you can do in these work situations, but do the best you can to move frequently to improve your health!
Thanks for reading, if you found this post useful why not share it with others?