As we begin another year full of promise and aspirations, I want to write about something that is an elementary, yet effective strategy to get 2016 off on the right foot — movement.
In physics we learn about Newton’s First Law of Motion: Objects in motion stay in motion while objects at rest stay at rest. This is also the way our bodies work. A person who sits for most of the day and doesn’t do much moving around usually ends up sitting and not moving around. On the other end of the spectrum, I’m sure you can think of some individuals who are always on the go — and feel almost uncomfortable if they aren’t doing something.
The fitness industry currently has a lot of one-liners, one of which is “Sitting is the new smoking.” In today’s world where kids would rather play on electronic devices than run around outside, and where some may be “chained” to their office desks, we are faced with the expectation that you’ll sit most of the day.
Now you may have already heard that sitting isn’t the best thing for you. Let’s dig deeper into the reasons why:
▶ Your aerobic capacity decreases, which decreases stamina. When you sit for an extended period of time, your heart and lungs are transporting oxygen to your muscles at a lower rate, and you lose stamina. You are now feeling more lethargic than you should.
▶ Blood volume decreases, which decreases cardiac output. When you sit for too long, blood doesn’t circulate as well, decreasing the blood that is pumped by the heart, leading to poor circulation as well as fatigue.
▶ Bone density decreases, increasing the risk of brittleness and injury. As we grow older our bone density naturally decreases, which is why in a previous WAG column I mentioned the importance of strength training to maintain your bone density, along with weight-bearing exercises like walking.
▶ Muscle mass and strength decreases. You aren’t building muscle by sitting, so if you sit for too long your basic strength will not be there.
▶ Distorted posture presents itself, increasing joint wear and tear. It is challenging to sit in an absolutely perfect position. You are going to lean on one side. Your legs will be at different angles, shoulders probably at different heights. Sit too long and these positions will solidify themselves, creating imbalances and asymmetries that inevitably lead to pain and/or injury.
▶ Abnormal reflexes and patterns emerge, which decrease reaction time. When you are seated, you do not have to react nearly as quickly to anything as compared to when you are on your feet and/or moving. This will start to slow down your reaction time to the world.
▶ Insulin sensitivity is reduced, which decreases metabolic efficiency.
▶ Testosterone and human growth hormone, also known as HGH, decrease. For all the men out there, this is something we are hearing a lot about, especially as we age. With low testosterone and HGH levels, the body will not control, produce, or maintain the naturally occurring male characteristics optimally.
▶ A loss of collagen decreases stability and strength. We want to have long, strong bonds of collagen throughout our bodies. This gives us good shape as well as a strong overall body structure. Sit for too long, and your collagen weakens, which makes your body weaker overall.
▶ Sluggish digestion decreases nutritional absorption. When sitting for too long, your gut isn’t able to work as efficiently, which directly affects how your food is being absorbed. As the saying goes, “It’s not what you eat, it’s what you absorb.”
Do you now have enough reasons to understand exactly what sitting can do and is doing to our bodies? Next time you are sitting at a desk, on an airplane or on your couch, try to get up every hour and move around, even if it’s going for a short walk or a stretch. For whatever reason resonates with you, make a resolution to become more active in 2016.
Happy New Year to you, and get moving!
A special congratulations to Jeff from Chappaqua, who won the challenge I posted in last month’s column and a free Equinox Tier 4 assessment at our private E club facility. Be on the lookout for more contests in the coming months.
Reach Giovanni on twitter @GiovanniRoselli and his website, GiovanniRoselli.com.