And if you have to wear a dress to work, well…I’m just sorry. Unless you like wearing dresses, then that's cool. I mean I like my pants to have a crotch, but you know, that's just me.
Speaking of dresses, Tuesday was Dolly Parton's 70th birthday. I love me some Dolly Parton just about as much as I love me some curly fries. I honored Dolly a few years ago by dressing up for her for Halloween.
Honored might be the wrong word there. I did my own make up. I know.
By now many of you have heard the phrase “sitting is the new smoking.” Personally, this expression makes me want to dig my ears out with a spoon, but the essence of the message is spot on. Regardless of the phrase, research shows that as soon as you sit, electrical activity in the legs shuts off, calorie burning drops to one per minute, enzymes that help break down fat drop 90% and good cholesterol drops 20%.*
Sitting is bad for you. Not just bad. A 2011 article in the New York Times even went so far as to describe sitting as lethal. Lethal. I imagine that some of you read that and think, "hey that's cool, but I go to the gym every day after work/before work/on my lunch break." Or I walk the dog and play with my kids. I'm active at night, so that's good, right?
I certainly thought that. Unfortunately, the research posted by an October 2014 Mayo Clinic newsletter says that long periods of sitting is equally detrimental to those who are generally healthy and exercise regularly.
In other words, going to the gym after eight hours of sitting is not going to necessarily combat all of that sitting.
Why is sitting so bad? When you sit, muscle activity effectively stops. When you're moving around, your muscles are actively working to keep you upright and moving, and in turn, sucking up blood sugar and blood fats for energy use. Ok, so less sitting. Cool, I get it, you get it, even if it's not practical. So let's stand a little more then. My Apple Watch reminds me to stand every hour.
But standing isn't that much better.
In the study referenced by the New York Times, Dr. James Levine, a researcher with the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. coined the term NEAT, which stands for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. In Dr. Levine’s study, even the little stuff matters. Spikes in energy occur in activities as basic as bending over to tie your shoes, because it takes more energy than just sitting still.
Also in the study, Dr. Levine notes that obese subjects averaged only 1,500 daily movements a day and nearly 600 minutes sitting; compared to farm workers who, not surprisingly, averaged 5,000 daily movements and only 300 minutes sitting.
But what to do when the work you’re doing; and for me that includes standing at a juice bar as a type this, requires sitting? And does standing alone counter that movement? Not many of us have the luxury of ordering a treadmill desk (a creation of Dr. Levine apparently).
Instead of just standing as a way to avoid stretching, try these five movements during the course of the day to combat the hazards of sitting.
1. Bowler squats
These are exceptional good for balance and single leg work. Use the wall for support as much as necessary.
2. Elbow Touches
This variation has you planking with really thinking about the fact that you're planking. Concentrate on keeping the hips level and the core tightly engaged throughout the movement.
3. True Hip Flexor Stretch
If you sit all day, you more than likely have tight hip flexors. Try this subtle yet effective stretch.
4. Alternating Reverse Overhead Lunge
Your glutes are effectively shut off when you sit all day. A lunge variation is an excellent way to turn those muscles back on and wake them up. Below is an overhead reverse lunge variation, but walking lunges can also be effective. And despite what you may have heard in this past, your knees can go past your toes on a forward lunge. The primary focus is to keep your knee straight during the movement. The tendency for most people is to have a wobbly knee or have the knee cave in. Be mindful of keeping the knee over the toe.
5. Squat to Stand
This movement is deceptive in it's challenge, and very effective for those of us with tight hamstrings. In this variation of the exercise, you're never letting go of your toes. You'll see in my video that I'm not that flexible so I have to let go of my toes a little bit, but the overall goal is to keep those hands down and get a good stretch in your hamstrings while also practicing your squats.