Hi, my name is Paul Roberts. I am a Physical Trainer and founder of Tribal Triathlete (www.tribaltriathlete.com), a triathlon training company that takes a lot of its inspiration from our evolutionary past. I believe that sitting for long periods is unhealthy and I would like to explain why.
Being at odds with our environment has led to a prevalence of sub-optimal performance, low energy/lethargy, and modern lifestyle-related diseases: Many of the Cancers, Obesity, Diabetes, Depression, Anxiety, Coronary Heart Disease, and Liver Disease are on the rise and directly related to how we individually choose to live our lives.
We have an optimal genetic code that presumes that we live a lifestyle as our ancestors did. When we change key fundamental elements of our lifestyle we are in turn attempting to reprogram our genetic code via an adaptation that allows us to survive in our chosen environment.
Unfortunately, the development of “modern life” has accelerated at such a rate that we have been unable to adapt appropriately to live with optimal health in this new environment.
The “modern life” environment that we have created has affected many of the key foundational elements of our thriving survival, here’s a model developed by Maslow that details our most basic primal needs.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
Image Credit: Abraham Maslow, Ref: Abraham Maslow.svg (CC Attribution Licence)
The physiological foundational level of Maslow’s model is where I focus most. It is when we try to manipulate these seven most basic of functions to fit our “modern life” that we begin to alter our gene’s and have the potential to upset our chances of optimal living.
I could explain here how we have distorted our approach to each of these needs to our detriment, instead I am going to introduce an eighth. The eighth need is absolutely essential to all seven listed above. It is MOVEMENT. Without movement none of the previously listed needs can be achieved.
So, moving is essential for us. When moving regularly we are like a crystal clear stream running smoothly down a mountain and when without movement for long periods we are more like a murky stagnant pond. One brings great life and abundant health whilst the other struggles to support any life at all.
One of the greatest inventions of “modern life” is the chair. Think of your previous year, how many chair free days have you had?? Not many right, in fact, I would imagine that if you have an office based job, drive a car, enjoy watching television you might be spending as much as 12-15 hours a day in a chair.
Great inventions and developments of “modern life” as much as convenient are not always healthy, consider the role of processed foods and sugar in our diets. Recent studies have linked sedentary living to increased blood pressure (1) and early death (2)- it is even reported that if you sit for more than 6 hours a day, it doesn’t matter how much exercise you get, you are 40% more likely to die in the next 15 years than someone who sits for less than 3 hours (3).
The Alternative Approach
To get healthy we need to harness our genetic code through our activities of daily living. The movement we take daily away from our exercise doesn’t need to be lung bursting but we have to move very regularly. Here are 3 guidelines to practicing better movement in line with our ancestors-
1. Use a standing workstation
Very little time would have been spent sitting with no chairs. Our predecessors preferred to stand or sit in a deep squat, can you do it?? If not you have probably been sitting too long!! The transition from sitting to standing slowly, any extra time spent out of the chair is beneficial to your health.
Good posture is essential to making a standing workstation work for you, weight even on both feet, knees soft, tail under, chest up, shoulders back, and chin in. Regularly check in with your posture and make sure you are active.
2. Strengthen, stretch and massage daily
One of the main problems with sitting is the negative impact it has upon your posture. Holding one position tends to hold you in a gentle stretch all day and slowly your body moves out of balance.
Our ancestors would have had strong glutes, wide chests, and supple hips from their regular movement. Get back to this level of function by standing up and working on balancing yourself out.
Strengthen- Gluteal, Middle-Upper Back, Front Neck.
Lengthen- Front Hip, Hamstring, Chest.
3. Walk slowly every day
10,000 steps a day is the widely accepted standard for slow-moving daily, for our ancestors, this would have been easily attained by tracking, foraging, and hunting.
In “modern life”, 10,000 steps can be achieved by conscientiously taking every opportunity to walk small distances. Commute on foot, park the car at the far end of the car park, take the dog out, take a short walk on your lunch break and enjoy getting outside.
If you find this approach to your health refreshing, come and check us out at http://www.tribaltriathlete.com .