Thursday, November 15, 2012

Undoing What Sitting Does
 exercise breaks

Okay so, everybody different! Bodies are different, lives are different. I specifically didn't start this blog with the idea that I was going to solve everybody's problems, I just thought I would show how I'm solving some of my problems and then whoever wanted could take it from there. Anyway the problem that I'm trying to solve here and now is how to undo a little bit what sitting does, and the first a-ha moment was that this problem isn't being solved by three key and two recovery workouts per week; this problem isn't going to be solved by workouts, this problem is going to be solved by breaks.

So there are two things that we're talking about, breaks and workouts:

  Intensity Duration Frequency
Break very low 20 seconds–2 minutes several times per day
Workout low to very high 20 minutes–2 hours several times per week

See, I think this is really good and win win. If you don't work out and you're worried about what all this sitting is doing to your health and maybe you dread the idea of working out, or if you do work out and maybe you're mad that now they're telling you it's not enough, it's all good. This isn't a workout, you won't and furthermore you shouldn't get your heart rate up or lift heavy weights for this. All you're doing here is moving your body parts for 20 seconds to two minutes, say, six or eight times per day. Which in addition to giving your tight muscles a break and your weak muscles something to do is also going to switch the electrical activity in your leg muscles back on, burn some calories, pump up your fat-burning enzymes, and keep your good cholesterol and your insulin effectiveness up.

Let me tell you what doesn't work for me, who knows maybe these will work for you:

  • That Sitting is Killing You infographic says "interrupt sitting whenever you can," woah non-specific. And also functionally I work sitting down, so interrupting sitting interrupts my work, which I don't want whenever.
  • It also suggests jumping jacks, there's just a limit to how much of a spectacle I'm going to make of myself at work.
  • Other suggestions I've read are like "walk to your coworkers' desks instead of sending email," well, there are other reasons that we send emails besides being too lazy to walk. And also nonspecific, and also too dependent on needing something else to happen.
  • Or Shanna said she usually goes for a walk but that means to get hot chocolate, and I said yeah, I went on a walk and ended up with a bagel.
  • Or you know, last winter I was doing stairs as a pomodoro workout, but let's call that for what it is, a workout.

So I need something specific that doesn't interrupt my work too much and that isn't too much of a spectacle and that's isn't too much of a workout, and this is what I'm trying out:

  1. First of all, I had to say to myself, I'm going to get up on the hour for exercise breaks. Because I am a creature of momentum, I need that little intention as my impetus to pry my butt off that stability ball. I do sit on a stability ball at work; like I said, it helps with taking up some of the slack in your abs and generally improving your posture while sitting—but you're still sitting, which means that you still need to get up and take a break from sitting.
  2. Then I need something to poke me on the hour, I had a really complicated notion of a tin hen that clucks and lays an egg on the hour and you collect the eggs? Or how about I set myself reminders on Google calendar, how about that. I set this up as a separate calendar, so I can switch it on and off as needed.
  3. Here's my favorite part, I have E.gg Timer bookmarked on my browser toolbar. Okay so it's on the hour and the hen clucks, I get up and start an e.ggtimer for my one minute exercise break. It's a totally simple interface, it brings up a white screen that counts down the time that you picked and then beeps when time's up.
  4. What exercises should I do? Well if you look at the picture, you basically want to stretch the tight muscles and contract the weak muscles, so basically do the opposite of what they're doing when you sit:
    • The opposite of hip and knee flexion is hip and knee extension. Which means straighten your legs, which means stand up. You can further extend the hip by kicking your leg back, which you can do super subtly standing right there at your desk, casually drinking from your water bottle and, if you want, still looking at your computer, which is to say looking at the timer counting down.
    • You can hold onto something for balance when you do your kickbacks, or you can go handsfree for a balance challenge. All balance problems have the same answer, engage your core. Core can mean a lot of things, there were two different definitions of core on the same page in my textbook. I usually mean upper back, abs, glutes and hamstrings. Engage your core means activate, contract, tighten, squeeze your upper back, abs, glutes and hamstrings, and that will also stretch and relax your chest, lower back, and hip flexors.
    • Also maybe take thirty seconds to pull your head back to its proper position. I dunno if it's computers or what, forward head posture is becoming the norm. I read somewhere that every inch your head hangs forward adds 10 pounds to its weight. It can throw your whole spine out of whack and everything that's connected to your spine, which is everything.
    kickback 1 kickback 2
    So basically thirty seconds of kickbacks on one leg then thirty seconds on the other leg, how easy is that. That's as good a place to start as any and will probably give you the most bang for your buck for now.

As it happens, I usually get up for something as long as I'm getting up—to wash my breakfast bowl, to get a cup of coffee, to wash my coffee cup, to go to the bathroom, etc. So my total break includes some standing and walking around, plus the kickbacks. Also I'm finding that if you sit a lot, you just want to sit more, and if you get up and move a little bit, then you want to move more; so if you're daunted by the idea of moving more, your part is just to get started moving a little bit and momentum will do the rest.

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