Time to Get Up and Move!
How often do you get up and move?
Research confirms that movement is essential for our health, and especially for optimal function of the spine. But what we may not realize is that even with regular intensive exercise, we may still be living quite a sedentary lifestyle, which is detrimental to our health. This is the subject of research by Dr. Katrien de Cocker of the University of Ghent’s Department of Movement and Sports Sciences. I would like to share some of her insights and add some tips of my own for a more vibrant and healthy lifestyle, and to start we need to get up and move.
The “movement standard” (beweegnorm in Dutch), considered the most advantageous for good health, is to move with moderate intensity at least five times a week for half an hour – this can be spread out over the day. To be more sportive, there is the “sports standard,” (sportnorm in Dutch) in which you move intensively three times a week for at least twenty minutes.
It only takes a small change in your daily life
In order to meet the movement standard, there is no need to go to the gym – small changes in your daily life can be enough. Where can you add movement without it becoming an extra activity that you have to do? For instance, taking the stairs instead of the lift, parking your car a bit further away so you are walking more, going for a walk during your lunch break, placing the printer down the hall so that you need to get up to retrieve your papers.
What you do during the rest of the day is also important. Current research shows that too much sitting increases the risk of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, and even premature death and mental disorders. Someone who meets the movement standard, but spends the rest of the day sitting down, cannot compensate for the unhealthy effects of being sedentary by doing sports.It is essential to move more throughout the day.
One of the effects of the many hours of inactivity is that there is too little contraction in the major muscle groups in the upper legs. Certain physiological processes such as the breakdown of fats are also impeded, leading to chronic diseases. We need to combine adequate exercise with an awareness of creating a healthy sitting lifestyle.
Why do we need to get up and move?
Scientists are not yet clear as to what is healthy in term of sitting. But it is evident that after about 8 hours of sitting a day, unhealthy processes kick in. And unfortunately, a lot of people who have sedentary jobs sit on average 8.3 hours a day! We sit at work/school, we sit in our car, on the bus or train, we sit down for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and in the evening we sit and watch TV and other screens. That is a lot of our waking time that we spend sitting down – way too much!
And what is also detrimental is not just the total length of sitting time, but also prolonged uninterrupted sitting time, whether it is 4,6,8, or 10 hours. It is essential to change our sitting culture. We need an enormous mental shift for this to occur. Employees fear that others will think they are “weird” or “non-productive” if they are not sitting at their desk typing away all the time.
10 ways to get up and move
- Replace sitting (at least in part) by standing or moving.
- Get up every 20-30 minutes and move around.
- Regularly have a good stretch throughout the day.
- Gradually make little changes, such as taking your break standing up, going to the water cooler down the hall, walking across the floor or up the stairs to talk to a colleague rather than sending an email, taking a phone call standing up or walking around.
- Check your daily tasks to see which ones you might be able to do with a bit more action.
- While sitting at your desk, move your feet in circles or up and down, nobody will notice!
- Ergonomic furniture can help you to work in a better position (standing, sitting or even reclining).
- Check the position of your desk, chair and computer.
- Women – do not stand in high heels for more than an hour at a time.
- Learn to listen to your body’s signals, regularly check to see that you are taking care of yourself in the best way possible.
And as a Taiji practitioner and teacher, I am of course interested not only in movement, but also in how you move!
You need to move in such a way that your spine has the space to move. You can create more space in your body by walking, standing and sitting more upright. And you need to move from the Dantian, the energy centre in your lower abdomen (about 4 fingers below the navel, and the same distance within the body.)
How to move from the Dantian
1. Bring your centre of gravity more forward in your body. We often stand with our weight on our heels, which can create postural problems. Move your weight forward to just behind the ball of the foot. This brings your centre of gravity to the Dantian, to the centre of the abdomen rather than the back. Your back will then have less weight to carry, and will become freer and less tense.
2. Use your feet to stand upright. When you are standing, feel that your feet push down into the earth. This creates an upwards movement through the bones of your legs, your spine, your neck, and up through the crown of your head (pull in your chin to optimize this effect). Relax the muscles, feel the bones supporting you from below. Your feet push down into the ground, which in turn pushes the crown of your head upwards. And you stand effortlessly upright – although in the beginning some effort is necessary to learn to stand this way!
For further information on creating a healthier life-style Sofie’s workshops, including corporate and online training Contact us now.
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