Do you live a sedentary lifestyle?
Answer the following questions in your mind:
How many times do you actually get up from a sitting position during your day?
Do you only get up at work to use the restroom or to get a cup of coffee once every few hours?
Does your morning fly by and you can’t believe it is lunchtime already? When you go home in the late afternoon, how much physical activity did you complete in the previous eight hours?
Some thought-provoking questions for our working population.
Movement is essential for a healthy lifestyle and our nation is severely deficient in simply MOVING.
Approximately 78 million people in the United States are obese, according to The Journal of the American Medical Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Now an epidemic, obesity is a part of the lives of approximately one-third of our American population. Obesity has become and will continue to be a grave threat to the health of our nation’s population if we don’t change this “sedentary lifestyle.”
The list of preventable comorbidities that go hand-in-hand with obesity include: heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer. Economically speaking, obesity and its many comorbidities create a substantial price tag. Estimated annual medical costs for the treatment of obesity and obesity-related diseases in the U.S. are $191 billion. In simple terms, the U.S. will spend $1,400 more per year on an obese individual compared to an individual who is not obese.
Along with the rapid changes and remarkable advances that technology has afforded Americans in completing a day’s work, the majority of our population now completes a day’s work in a sitting environment. Gone are the days of manual labor. A sedentary lifestyle has become the norm. Our society has fallen victim to this “sitting disease” both at work and home. How do we combat this sedentary workday cycle?
The following is what I discuss with new clients at StudioDEE Yoga and Fitness: First, identify your current level of physical activity. Set attainable and smart goals. This may be something simple like getting a pedometer or wearable fitness device that tracks movement. It is important to define if one is de-conditioned or lives a sedentary life (active <30 min/day). If you are sedentary, start with simple movements like the sequence listed below and begin with walking at least a mile a day (2,000 steps). The movements listed can be completed sitting or standing. StudioDEE Yoga and Fitness has developed this program for several corporations, including QVC, Vanguard, John Deere, CDW, Nypro and Toshiba Medical Research.
1. Cat Sequence: Sit tall on the edge of your seat with your knees over your ankles and your hands resting on your knees. As you inhale, slide your hands up your thighs toward your hip creases, begin to lengthen through your spine as you roll your shoulders back and away from your ears, slowly lift your chin and gaze skyward. As you exhale, slide your hands down your thighs toward your knees or slightly past as you roll your shoulders forward, round your spine and lower your chin toward your chest. Alternate between these two movements for five to eight repetitions.
2. Side Stretch: Sit tall in your chair or stand. Inhale, lift your left arm overhead and exhale. Reach over to the right as you ground down through your left foot, if you are standing, and left gluteus, if you are seated. Take three to five deep inhalations and exhalations. Repeat with the left arm.
3. Spinal Twist: Sit tall on the edge of your seat with your knees over your ankles. Place your right hand on the edge of your seat and place your left hand on the outer edge of your right thigh. Inhale and lengthen through your spine, exhale slowly, open your heart and chest to the right. During each inhalation, feel your spine lengthen a little bit more, creating space between the vertebrae as you move deeper into the twist with your exhalation. Explore movements of the neck by lowering the chin down toward your chest. This slow progression allows for the discs that cushion our spinal column to move and adjust into the twist. Repeat on the other side.
4. Figure Four (Hip Opener/Lower Back and Gluteus Stretch): Sit tall on the edge of your seat with your knees over your ankles. Bring your right ankle onto your left thigh close to the knee creating a “figure four” with your legs. If your hips are tight, your right leg will be positioned diagonally. If you are unable to place your ankle on your thigh, try to place the foot below the knee on your shin to create the figure four. This modification will lessen the strain on already tight hips. Flex your right foot and pull your toes toward your right shin as you place your right hand on your thigh to level your hips. These movements will deepen the stretch, but most importantly remember to breathe even if you feel a deep sensation. Extending your exhalations will allow the body to relax and progress deeper into the movement. You may also lean forward with a flat back folding from the hip creases to deepen the stretch into your hip and right gluteus.
5. Downward Facing Dog at your desk, wall or chair: Stand facing the wall with feet placed hips-width apart and an arm’s distance from the wall. Place your hands on the wall at shoulder height. Spread your fingers and press into the wall as you step your feet back until your body is diagonal to the wall (picture yourself trying to hold the wall up). Now begin to pull your hips back and soften your heart toward the floor; the spine stays long and your head will lower between your arms. Let your head hang heavy and feel the length of your spine as you continue to pull your hips back. Observe the shoulders opening and the stretch in the back of your legs. You may decide to add a slight bend in the knees if your hamstrings (the backs of the legs) are tight. Take five to eight deep inhalations and exhalations.
Chair version: Fold over the seat of the chair and wrap your fingers around the side of the seat. If your chair has wheels, prop it up against your desk or a wall. Step your feet back, so you are in a high plank and then pull your hips back. Soften your heart toward the floor; spine stays long and your head will lower between your arms.
Strengthening at the Wall/Chair
1. Push-ups: Stand facing the wall with feet placed hips-width apart and an arm’s distance from the wall. Place your hands on the wall at shoulder height. Spread your fingers and press into the wall as you step your feet back until your body is diagonal to the wall (picture yourself trying to hold the wall up). Gently contract your core muscles as you exhale and bend at the elbows, allowing them to bend back not out. This movement may feel awkward at first but will work the upper back and shoulders as you lower yourself toward the wall. NOTE: Shoulders, hips and heels stay level throughout the movement. Inhale when you reach the wall, exhale contract the core and press the wall. Repeat 15-20 times, but decrease repetitions if this is too much.
2. Tricep Dips: Using your chair, come to the edge of your seat and then step feet out until knees are over your ankles (a 90-degree bend of the legs). Wrap your hands around the sides of your seat as you sit tall. Step your feet out one foot length each as you press the heels of your hands into the seat and lift your bottom from the chair. You are now holding yourself up and off the seat of the chair. Inhale here and then as you exhale, bend your elbows and lower your hips below the seat of your chair. Your goal is to bend your elbows 90 degrees and lower yourself down, but then be able to lift yourself back up by pressing into the heels of your hands and straightening your arms. This will strengthen the back of your arms, but remember to keep your core gently contracted and breathe. Complete two sets, with eight to 10 reps each set.
3. Alternate Knee Lifts (chair version): Sit tall on the edge of your seat, feet hips-width apart with your knees over your ankles. Flex one foot at a time as you alternate lifting one leg at a time about 12-15 inches off of the floor. Remember to breathe and to sit tall; no slouching as you lift one flexed foot and leg up at a time. Complete 15 reps with each leg for a total of 30 movements. Decrease if needed.
4. Wall Sit: (Wall version) Stand with your back against the wall. Begin to bend the knees as you slide your body down the wall, keeping head, shoulders and back against the wall. Slide down the wall until your legs are bent at a 90-degree angle. Remember to breathe and hold for 30 seconds. Rest for 10 seconds and repeat this sequence three times.
Chair modification: Come to the edge of the chair, walk feet out until legs form a 90-degree angle. Press firmly into your feet and contract your thigh muscles, core muscles and gluteus, simultaneously holding for 30 seconds. Remember to breathe during the exercise, rest for 10 seconds and repeat three times.
5. Plank: Using a chair, fold forward over the seat of the chair and wrap your fingers on the side edges of the chair. If your chair has wheels, remember to prop it up against your desk or wall before beginning this exercise. Step your feet back until your shoulders, hips and heels are level. Shift forward on your toes to align the shoulders over wrists and remember to gently contract your core muscles as you breathe. Hold the plank position for 15-20-second intervals, working your way up to 30 to 60 seconds.
1. Imaginary Jump Rope: Cue the music and envision yourself like Rocky Balboa preparing for your match against Apollo Creed. Pretend you are holding a jump rope handle in each hand and begin to jump rope in place. Remember to stay on your toes and breathe in through your nose and out of your mouth. Keep the jumps small and fast; the goal is to increase your heart rate and to move. It takes as little as 30 seconds to increase your heart rate, however, if you are sedentary, 30-second intervals may seem challenging. Alternate between jumping and resting for a total of three minutes. Do not rest for more than 10 seconds. The goal is to gradually work your way up to three minutes of imaginary jump roping without taking a break.
Chair modification: Sit on the edge of your seat with your knees over your ankles. Lift your heels off the ground and come onto the toes and ball mounts of your feet. Pretend you are holding a jump rope handle in each hand and begin to jump your feet as if you are jump roping and move your hands and wrists in small circles like you are holding a real jump rope. Remember to stay on your toes and lift your knees as high as your hips when seated. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. See above for recommended length of time.
2. Run In Place: Rocky is the best visual that comes to mind when I think of running with a purpose. Imagine him as he made his way through south Philly to the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. In your workspace you only need enough space for you to stand up and begin to jog in place and alternate to running fast in place, swinging and pumping your arms as you would if you were running on your favorite trail. It takes as little as 30 seconds to increase your heart rate with this type of movement. The goal is to work your way up to a run/jog of a total of three minutes in place.
Chair modification: Sit on the edge of your seat with your knees over your ankles. Lift your heels off the ground and come onto the toes and ball mounts of your feet. Begin to lift your feet off the ground as if you are running seated in your chair. Swing your arms and feel your heart rate increase. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. See above for recommended length of time.
3. Jumping Jacks: Jumping Jacks are a great way to increase your heart rate and requires little space. Standing tall with arms at your side, jump your feet wide as you lift both arms overhead. Continue to alternate between these two positions for 30 seconds. Take a five to 10 second break and repeat for 30 seconds. Repeat this cycle three times.
Chair modification: Sit on the edge of your seat with your knees over your ankles and arms down by your sides. Lift your heels off the ground and come onto the toes and ball mounts of your feet. Step your feet wide and lift your arms out to the side and overhead, recreating a seated jumping jack. Stay on your toes and move quickly as you raise arms and jump legs wide. Continue to alternate between these two positions for 30 seconds. Take a five to 10 second break and repeat for 30 seconds. Repeat this cycle three times.
For more information, visit www.studiodeeyoga.com