The shocking secret to health and weight loss! Why don’t we know this simple rule?
Written by Nick L. Pfeffer B.EX CEPS (bio at bottom of post)
We’re sitting ourselves to DEATH
The American Journal of Epidemiology showed that men who sat for six hours or more had a 20% higher death rate than men who sat for 3hrs or less..
But, with 8 hours a day in a job, 2 hours commuting, 8 hours sleeping and a couple of hours looking after kids or tending to chores.. where do we find the time?
That question is quickly turning into a common problem, as our lives are constantly filled with even more activities which give us even less movement. However, even if you are sitting down for most of the day, and you can’t get away; there are some very important and incredibly effective ways of catering to your body’s desperate need for activity. By following my simple exercise plan you can help your body cope with the strains of sitting down.
But why is it so terribly important that we keep moving? You might be saying to yourself: ” Can you tell me something I don’t already know?”
Simply exercising doesn’t help!
Obesity and sedentary lifestyle are escalating global epidemics, that continue to be the focus of health professionals and governments alike. Our sedentary behavior as a population has even led to a new field of study; ‘sedentary physiology’. To the credit of different governments around the world, they have broadly reached a consensus that their populations should be moving more. Programs such as the NHS (UK National Health Service) 5 x 30 minutes, mirrors similar advice from the American Heart Foundation; 150 minutes of physical exercise per week for adults between 19 – 64 y/o to stay healthy or to improve health. But what about the rest of the hours in the day? Consider an adult who sleeps approximately 8hrs/ day; what are we to do with the other 16hrs? As I wrote in last weeks post about the issues with sedentary lifestyle choices; the average American spends approximately 70% of their leisure time in front of digital media!
With 8 hours spent sleeping, and 0.5 hours of exercise, we’re left with 15.5 hours in the day. The scary part is that the average American office worker spends 13 hours a day sitting! That leaves only 2,5 hours of time for potential movement.
Sedentary lifestyle places a tremendous burden on our bodies, as well as the health system. In the US alone, chronic diseases are responsible for 300,000 premature deaths, and direct health care costs of at least $90,000,000,000 (that’s $90 billion!) (source).
Significant volumes of research has shown that prolonged sitting (or taking too few breaks from sitting) is detrimental to health, however there are a limited amount of studies which look at the link between sitting time and all-cause mortality. One Australian group led by Chris Del Mar, a Professor of Public Health at Bond University, looked at all-cause mortality for 222,297 individuals 45 years and older. Using Cox proportional hazard model (a class of survival model in statistics e.g. time that passes before some event occurs to one or more covariant) to examine all-cause mortality in relation to sitting time adjusted for confounders such as sex, age, education, BMI, smoking and others. They found that prolonged sitting is a risk factor for all-casue mortality, regardless of physical activity! This essentially means that sitting a lot will shorten your life expectancy, even if you train! The recommended action is to develop health programs with the goal of reducing sitting time, as well as increasing physical activity.
Think differently about exercise!
Technology was meant to improve our productivity. It offered a chance to improve our lifestyles. It promised streamlined work flow. For me technology broke that promise..
Google maps means I no longer get hopelessly lost trying to navigate around the city, and thus take fewer steps. My fancy internet TV saves me a trip to the movie rental store of yesteryear. My groceries come conveniently delivered to my door so that I don’t have to trawl around the shop for hours, and my lawn mover drags me around rather than having me push it.. Heck, you can even get a robotic vacuum cleaner or a whisk that stirs the gravy for you (my wife has one of those!).
In all this convenience, have we forgotten the befit of natural movement?
Consider the study published in the International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders. Jakicic et al investigated the effects of short bouts of exercise versus long bouts per day on cardiorespiratory fitness and weight loss. The age of the female participants were 40 (+/- 5.9yrs) and 40.9 (+/- 7.3yrs) respectively. Both groups exercised for 20-40mins per day, 5 days per week. The short bout group performed exercises for periods of 10mins up to the total target time. The long bout group performed a single bout per day. The result of the study showed that the group who did multiple short bouts of exercise had improved health and improved weight loss (source).
This means that you are better off moving more often at shorter intervals, than “going to the gym” for one solid workout. If fact, you are more likely to loose weight and increase your general health if you engage in moderate natural movement over time, such as a short run, a brisk walk, or perhaps even mowing the lawn, shoveling snow or hoovering, at regular intervals throughout each day.
We have to move more, but also move more frequently!
How to schedule your breaks
The biggest trouble for many is the commitment to taking breaks at work. After all; that is where most of us spend the majority of our days! Questions like: have I got the time? Will it break my work flow? Might I cause upset amongst my colleagues or more importantly my boss if I take regular time-outs?
I’d say quite the contrary! Most workplaces encourage healthy movement, as it vastly reduces sick leave and increases productivity. Some companies even sponsor gym memberships for employees, extend lunch breaks to allow for exercise, or even hire instructors to do in-house yoga or physiotherapy sessions. If you don’t think your boss is up to date with the latest in workforce health, then show him/her this article or email him/her this study on the benefits of healthy employees.
Whatever it takes; you have to move during your 8 hour sedentary work day; and you have to move correctly! Even if you aren’t necessarily sitting down during your day at work, you are probably engaging in repetitive movements that puts your body at risk.
The key is to incorporate exercises that counteract the damaging behaviors. Many people get a bit sweaty by the mere mention of the word “exercise” but I assure you the movements I am about to show you are far from strenuous. They are simple structured activities that you can do in between whatever else you have going on. You can certainly do them in your office, some of them even sitting in your chair! It really doesn’t matter where you do them , as long as they get done. They can save your body a lot of trouble, and you a lot of pain, in the long run!
Still not convinced to climb aboard? Wilmot et al published the following results in Diabetalogia in 2012: Long periods of sedentary time is associated with increased risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality.
Or, take a look at this awesome infographic by learnstuff.com: (click to open in new window, then click again to enlarge)
Awesome automated tools that get you there!
Are you motivated yet? Here comes the practical guide!
There are some fantastic (mostly free) apps to force you out of your seat and get you moving. Some of them don’t just remind you to take a break; they lock you computer screen and more or less force you to get active. Most of them let you choose to which level you wish to get motivated, so there’s a solution for everyone.
“Time Out” is a good one for Mac users, as it helps break bad work habits by scheduling regular breaks. It has two types of breaks; a ‘normal’ time-out which locks your screen for 10mins after 50mins of work, and a mini-break which gives you a brief pause for 10s every 10 minutes. You can also adjust any of these elements and customise the effects on your screen. This is a particular favorite of our Gluten Free Lifesaver director Kristine. It continues to be her desk break ‘lifesaver’ as she taps away at her keyboard in the wee hours of the night.
“Workrave” is another great alternative to Time Out, and is made for PC users. This was Kristine’s favourite work-break app when she had a PC. It has all the features of Time Out, but in addition it actually gives you instructions for stretches during your breaks! Ingenious!
“FitBolt” attaches to Chrome, and is an app which assists in improving your office health and wellness. The app provides stretching suggestions, easy to do exercises and tips on ergonomics.
“Wellnomics” is an other alternative; similar to the above, offering stretching infographics and scheduling reminders. It also monitors computer use, when a worker takes breaks, and for how long.
..and there’s plenty more to suit everyone!
Or, you could always go old school; watch the clock or use a timer!
Your movement plan:
Now that you’ve found a great way to schedule your breaks, we will look at concrete actions you can take during these breaks to make the most of them.
Week 1 – Here we go!
This week we are focusing on the following schedule;
- Start your day with a 50 ml water bottle on your desk, and drink the content between each 50 minute break.
- Every 10 minutes we take a scheduled 10 second break from the screen or other sedentary activity. In these 10 seconds you can perform any one of the stretches shown, and hold the pose for the duration of the 10 second break.
- At every 50 minute mark the first thing you do is get up and refill your water bottle! Back at your desk you do the exercise sequence allocated to that break. Hold each stretch for at least 20 seconds on each side
You can schedule your breaks to suit your day, but a good suggestion would be:
11 movements that combat sedentary lifestyle problems
I have captured Kristine doing her exercises so that you can see how they are done. I hope you can excuse the mobile phone picture quality, they’re not brilliant, but I think they do the trick anyhow 🙂
For each break choose 4 exercises, and mix them up so that each break offers some variety from the last. You can find your own rhythm and put together a program that works for you, using the full spectrum of exercises in your chosen order.
Before you get going I want to remind you of next weeks program where we will be using pilates foam rollers, and also looking at which rollers you should use for which purpose!
I would love to hear your experiences with the exercises, and feel free to ask me any questions!