According to Statistics Canada, only 15 per cent of adults and 7 per cent of children meet the minimum recommended physical activity guidelines every day. André Picard
Someone recently said to me “I can’t get on the floor and play with my pets anymore, my hips are so stiff” and this person was only in his mid fifties.
You’ve probably seen the most recent research findings on how our sedentary lifestyle is really harmful to our health. It’s been all over the media lately. The Globe and Mail’s André Picard wrote an article this week where he quipped “sitting is the new smoking”. The short version of the findings are this: sitting for long stretches of time is bad for you, so you should get up and move at least 2 minutes for every 20 that you sit. Better yet, get a standing desk if you’re a desk jockey.
(The irony isn’t lost on me that I’m writing this blog post while spending most of my day sitting on airplanes as I travel home from Calgary. I tried to stretch a bit in the aisle, but somehow I get strange looks when I do the Warrior pose on the Airbus. Silly people…)
For the past two years, I have been going to a great little gym aimed at folks 40 and over. (I like being the youngest, so I do what I have to :-)). Many of the people who come to this gym are in their 60s and 70s and they are super fit. The mantra of this gym is retaining flexibility and strength as we age – our trainers often tell us “use it or lose it – keep your hips mobile or you will regret it later.” I must confess that I never really gave much thought to flexibility before. I was born pretty bendy and I am fairly active. But a few months ago, I injured my hip flexor and let me tell you, it was not a happy thing for me. I was in constant pain and unable to run for nearly two months. It was likely caused by too much sitting (from all my time on planes, trains and computer time) and weak glutes (that’s bum muscles for the rest of you, which are often weak in women). After many months of physiotherapy, foam rolling (the best gizmo ever!!!) and this incredibly intense but highly effective therapy called Active Release, I am now almost pain-free. But the injury is here to stay – it is there to remind me to stop sitting so much and to get up and stand up to stay healthy for a very long time.
A few suggestions for desk jockeys and long distance drivers
Use a timer: If you have a smart phone, you can set a timer to remind you to stand up every 20-30 minutes. Mine plays a fun little bongo rhythm every 20 minutes and I get up and shake my thing, have a little dance, stretch, go get a drink, etc. before I sit down again.
Stand to work: Standing desks are becoming increasingly popular. If you don’t have access to one, try and explore ways to work on your computer standing up – prop it up on a taller counter – use a stability ball to work for some parts of your day.
Stretch: If you are really stiff, or have back or knee problems, speak to a fitness instructor first, and ask them to design a safe stretching routine for you. It may be a little discouraging at first if you are barely able to bend over, but if you do it every day, you will see results over time. However, be careful and don’t push it – yoga instructors always say “respect the limits of your body and push yourself only slightly beyond your comfort zone”. There is no point injuring yourself trying to touch your toes. Some of the best stretches are featured on this Mayo Clinic link. For stiff hips (and only if you do not have knee problems), I find the pigeon pose to be incredible. Here is a nice short video that demonstrates the pose. Here are some additional examples of hip stretches.
Yoga: One of the best things I did to help manage my hip injury was to return to hot yoga. Now, I know this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but for me, it’s bliss.
Andre Picard concludes: “Ideally, you should be moderately active – the equivalent of a brisk walk – 30 to 60 minutes a day, every day.”
Now let’s all sing it together! Get up, stand up…
What are you going to do to stand up for your life?
Image by arztsamui at freedigitalphotos.net