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The Benefits of Standing Up More Often

June 06, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 186

This may be the single most important and simple bit of advice you'll read when it comes to exercise, and it has the potential to improve your health.

I work from home, and a lot of what I do takes place in front of a computer. I have had a slight scoliosis since childhood, and sitting is my least favorite position, as I usually get uncomfortable rather quickly.

Anyway, a couple of month ago, I remember getting up out of bed feeling good in my body after a heavy training session the day before. It was early so I thought I check my mails and catch up on some reading before my little guy woke up.

I stood up after 30 minutes when I felt a nagging pain through my back. That ache lasted 3 or 4 days. Talk about a bummer, all I did was sitting up, not even a silly movement like bending or twisting.

It got me thinking that I should try to lift my desk up and put the chair away to avoid this kind of things repeating. So I did...

As it turns out, there are plenty of benefits to having a standing desk I wasn't aware of. Until I read "The first 20 minutes" by Gretchen Reynolds.

Basically, already in the 1700s a doctor had made the relationship between sitting/ being inactive and overall health. It went largely ignored until 1950, when another doctor did a health study of bus drivers vs bus ticket sellers and of delivery postmen vs postal clerks.

The active workers were less likely to die of heart diseases and less likely to have wide waist lines. Regular movement throughout the day is healthy, sitting for long periods is not.

Active or sedentary, the choice is yours...

The great news is that we are just talking about movement, not about a specific form of exercise. Let that sink in...

Fast forward 50-60 years until our present day in the Western world, and we are the most sedentary group of human ever to exist. This includes many of us that exercise on a regular basis. If your job has you behind a desk for most of the day, you are sedentary. A kind of active couch potato. Some people even tend to be less active throughout the rest of the day if they do strenuous exercise that leaves them drained.

Your body craves movement. So yes, you can improve strength and fitness with a training program, but health will remain unchanged if you're inactive the rest of the day. Not enough people understand this. They think that their workout is enough because it was intense or whatever. But fitness and health are 2 separate things.

Chimpanzees cover on average 5km a day foraging for food, and are not best equipped to walk. Hunter gatherer tribesmen cover 8-16km a day. In comparison, a sedentary person walks about 2-3km a day.

I have just bought a pedometer. To reach 10000 steps, or roughly the equivalent of 5 km requires more effort than I thought!

I am lucky to have to walk my little boy to day care and pick him up. I walk to the shops. I walk to the gym. I reach over 10000 steps. I do not view this as time consuming, I welcome it and am glad for it. It does not into my recovery that I have to be worried I'll be tired to lift weight the following day.

Eating, commuting to work, working, relaxing...

Think about it, for some people this easily adds up to over 10 hours a day of inactivity or sitting! Add another 6-8 hours of sleep. What will affect your health more? Your lifestyle or your training session? Think about the generation of kids growing up, not playing as much as we did (for those of us that were born in the 70s and 80s).

In her book, Gretchen names a study I extracted some text from.

"The men who spent more than 23 hours a week watching TV and sitting in cars had a 64% greater chance of dying from heart disease than those who sat for 11 hour a week or less. What was unexpected was that many of the men who sat long hours and developed heart problems also exercised. Their workouts did not counteract the ill effect of sitting"

Scientists do not know precisely why sitting has such a negative impact even on exercising populations, just that muscle contraction has a role in it. "When you stand, even if you don't walk around, the large muscles in your back, buttocks and legs contract to keep you upright and stable. When you sit, those muscles aren't needed"

In another study,healthy young men developed signs of insulin resistance within 24 hours of being bed ridden.

Even 7 hours of sitting absolutely still threw insulin levels out of whack.

Back to the 10000 steps a day. When asked to limit their steps from 10,000 steps to 4500 a day, a study group also developed signs of insulin resistance. Just as mentioned above ("their workouts did not counteract the ill effect of sitting"), the trouble is that even when people resumed training, the disrupted systems did not return to 100% normal.

"For instance, levels of Lipoprotein lipase seem to be regulated by how much you sit, not how much you sweat. There seem to be different pathways involved in the beneficial physiological effects of exercising and the damaging impacts of sitting. One does not undo the other."

Just as health is not just the absence of disease, inactivity is not just not getting exercise.

Inactivity is a huge and growing problem with a simple solution.

You could break your working day, and do a few kettlebell swings, do 100 rope skip, a few burpees or walk around every half hour. Or you could simply stand up every now and then. It seems to positively affect the body just as efficiently!

Lift your desk up!

If I do not reach my daily target of 10000 steps, I know I did something good for myself by working at my standing desk.

When you first try a standing desk, it might be hard, because really you cannot really relax while standing up. You'll shift around. The muscles around your spine and leg are going to be challenged. But it is all good, I believe (although I haven't come across any research) it will help back problems in the long run. You are potentially going to teach your body to return to its natural position. So instead of giving up if it gets too uncomfortable, progressively build up to it (as long as you do not have a condition preventing you from standing up for long hours).

And do not give up on exercise as being unnecessary because you're standing and walking. Strength training and conditioning has its own set of benefits. Do it.

This post was written standing up. Please share this post and get people standing and moving more!

Thierry Sanchez is a physical trainer and master trainer for the International Union of Kettlebell Lifting. Thierry has a holistic approach to training and recognizes the importance of balance in all aspects of life. In 2010, he won a gold and silver at the kettlebell sport world championships. In 2012, he will be competing in powerlifting and kettlebell sport.

Source: EzineArticles
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