Our modern lifestyle competes with one of the most basic requirements of the human body, movement. These days we drive a little bit more, we’re forced to sit and work a little bit more, and we’re just not as active day-to-day as we used to be. We then try to reconcile this behavior by exercising and being active when we have a chance. Even with daily exercise, if the rest of your day is spent being inactive, you are at risk for the side effects related to a sedentary lifestyle. Down to a cellular level, humans need to have mechanical input for the body to function correctly.
“Make your environment fit you instead of making yourself fit the environment.”
Side Effects of a Sedentary Lifestyle
Movement is key to a healthy, capable body. When your body stays active, it’s able to handle loads, digest them, and have a positive adaptation to training. On the other hand, it’s very difficult for the body to go from sedentary to then exposed to exercise and high intensity loads, and then go back to being sedentary. If tendons, ligaments, tissues, and bones aren’t being consistently loaded, those systems become fragile and less capable. You can’t turn the systems off and then expect to go out and PR. Inactivity after a workout causes tissues to become congested and stiff. Loading tissues through movement is one of the best behaviors to make the most robust and ready human beings. It keeps the tissues healthy and allows you to feel better.
Say goodbye to your sedentary environment with these simple steps from Kelly Starrett, founder of The Ready State.
How to Overcome a Sedentary Environment
Sometimes we have no choice in how our environment is set up. Cultural or social cues may tell us that we need to sit down, or at work we may not be provided with a desk that allows for standing or movement. However, there are some simple steps you can take to get in more movement throughout the day.
#1 At Work
We spend a lot of time at work each week, but this shouldn’t hold us back from leading a more active lifestyle. Ideally, every work station would have a sit/stand desk for each employee. This makes it easier to stay active and switch positions throughout the day. If your company has yet to provide this, don’t worry, there are other ways to get your body moving.
Standing Desk: Ditching the chair is a great way to add in more movement. Make sure you’re not just standing during the day though, the goal is to move more. Grab a stool and rest your foot, lean up against it, or bring your leg up into pigeon stretch. There are many options to keep your body moving and as Kelly Starrett says, “it’s not a standing work station until you have a place to put your foot”.
Floor Desk: Standing desks get all the attention, but floor desks are becoming popular too. If you’re working from home or have the opportunity to sit on the ground, by all means do so. You can use a desk like the one from Varidesk, or you can grab some pillows and books to make your own. This option is a great way to take joints and tissues through a full range of motion, and ultimately improve them.
Sitting Desk: When you do find yourself in a chair, there are a couple things you can do to get more active. First, try sitting towards the edge of the chair. Let yourself slouch, sit tall, take a deep breath, move your legs around, and just fidget around while making sure your trunk is engaged.
#2 Walk More
Walking is great for two reasons. One, incorporating low grade movement will load tissues and decongest the system. This will keep your body healthy and tissues active. Two, by walking the recommended number of steps each day you can accumulate enough fatigue to wear yourself out, which will lead to better sleep. Kelly Starrett recommends more walking before anything else to elite military groups who have a hard time sleeping. The recommended number of steps you should take each day ranges from 6,000 to 15,000. If you’re an older person, the goal is closer to 6,000. For younger, more active people, try for closer to 10,000-15,000.
#3 Marc Pro
The heart and soul of Marc Pro is movement, which allows you to decongest tissues when you find yourself in positions and times when you can’t move as much as you would like. If you’re an athlete or person who fancies themselves as active and goes from a long commute or board meeting to getting ready for that triathlon or CrossFit workout, remember that the goal is to have healthy decongested tissues and the best way to do that is to move.
The bottom line is active recovery is always best. Vary your positions throughout the day and keep your body active in any way you can.
Yin Yoga is a slow-paced style of yoga with postures, or asanas, that are held for longer periods of time—for beginners, it may range from 45 seconds to two minutes; more advanced practitioners may stay in one asana for five minutes or more.
Yin Yoga is a lot less popular style of yoga in the West. It is also known to require a few sessions to warm up and understand the practice since it targets the deep connective tissues of the body as well as the fascia that covers the body. Spiritually it is also known to regulate the flow of energy in the body.
Yin Yoga is also quite unique because you are asked to relax in the various postures. This leads to softening of the muscles. Postures can be held for three to five minutes and even upwards of 20 minutes at a time. Utilizing Yin yoga can drastically increase your range of motion when practiced daily.
Yin yoga conceptually has been around for thousands of years. This meditative approach has a physical focus that is much deeper than other types of practices. The focal point resides more with deeper tissues. With age, flexibility decreases within the joints. Yin yoga is a great way to maintain that flexibility.
One must connect deeply with one’s self. This includes feelings, sensations, and emotions.
Known benefits of Yin yoga are:
- Calming and balancing to the mind and body
- Regulation of energy in the body
- Increased mobility
- Increased lubrication of joints
- Increased stamina
- Lower stress levels
- Better flexibility.
- Release of fascia throughout the body
- Deeper flow state and relaxation
Yin yoga also teaches you how to really listen to your body. This is due to the fact that you focus intently on positions without going in and out. Jumping around to multiple positions quickly takes away from the focus. Yin is also a tremendous compliment to other styles of yoga.
It also helps strengthen you both physically and mentally since you’re spending long periods of time in an uncomfortable position. It teaches perseverance. With that being said, Yin is essential to anyone interested in Yoga. If you are looking to step up your yoga game, try signing up for an online subscription program like ROMWOD, which you can do at home.
Activities of modern life, such as typing at a computer or even just being on our phones, have ultimately changed our body’s mechanics. We tend to have internally rotated shoulders, tight hip flexors, and many other issues that arise from being in a seated position or a position that is less than ideal (ie. head down looking at a phone). While modern life has provided us with many conveniences and improvements in the quality of our lives, there are also many problems that have resulted. To offset these issues, we need to be sure to take the necessary measures, such as practicing mobility exercises, to promote mobility, range of motion, and recovery so our bodies can stay healthy and active.
According to Brian Mackenzie, these are the top 3 mobility exercises everyone should be doing on the daily.
Mobility Exercise #1: Couch Stretch
• Find a wall
• Place knee about 6 inches from wall
• Bring other foot in front of body. Be sure to stay forward and do not let hips roll out to the side
• Activate glutes to bring hips towards the floor
• Squeeze for 3 seconds and release for 3 seconds. Repeat this multiple times to get hip flexors to open up.
There are a ton of variations around this stretch. In fact, they call it couch stretch because you can actually do it in a couch. To do this variation, put one leg back in the couch and have your other leg on the floor, then just lean back.
Mobility Exercise #2: Pigeon Stretch
• Find a platform that is slightly lower than your hips
• Place one leg on platform so that your shin is straight across and perpendicular to your body
• Keep rear foot that is on ground straight. If you turn your foot out, you’re just cheating yourself. Switch legs and repeat.
Another variation of the pigeon stretch is lotus or half lotus. A lot of Yogis use these positions since they are a great way to widen and open up the hips while still being able to access the diaphragm. While doing lotus or half lotus, set shoulders in external rotation while legs are crossed to get your spine in the desired position. For those who have never done this before, start with half Lotus and progress to full Lotus when you are ready to take it to the next level. Lotus creates a great way to stay mobile, especially when in a seated position.
Mobility Exercise #3: Shoulder Internal Rotation Stretch
• Lay down on ground
• Set shoulders down so that they touch the ground and lift hips
• Slide hands underneath hips. If you can only get your hands up to your hips that’s fine, but try to work your way up to getting your hands flat higher on your back.
• Once hands are in place, slightly lower your body down.
• Make sure shoulders remain touching the ground throughout the entire stretch
• Sit for 3 seconds with body lowered then bring body up
• Slowly lower body while squeezing your shoulders outward as you get lower and lower. Repeat this a few times.
Because we take part in activities that cause our shoulders to rotate internally, such as typing and texting, we need to perform other movements to offset these issues, like mobility exercises. After just 3 sets of the shoulder internal rotation stretch that takes about 10 seconds total, you will immediately experience more range of motion.
These 3 mobility exercises are essential for staying mobile, staying healthy, and maintaining or increasing range of motion. If you haven’t yet incorporated these or other mobility exercises into your daily routine, it’s time to start now. The best part is they take only minutes or even seconds and can be done almost anywhere.