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TAKE A STAND FOR YOUR HEALTH!

By Muhilan Kandhasamy

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The average U.S. adult sits 9-10 hours per day! To put it in perspective, that’s the same as taking a flight from New Jersey to Rio de Janiero every single day. I don’t know about you, but I would be pretty pissed off and tired of being on a trip like that 7 times a week. But screen-shot-2016-10-28-at-1-49-50-pmhow often do we find ourselves sitting to drive to work, sitting at a desk hours a day, sitting when we drive home, then slouch into the couch for hours because of the mental drain of *insert excuse here*. What the hell are you doing!? I’m sure you’ve heard the “Sitting is the New Smoking” campaign, and for good reason! Many of our daily activities are beginning to involve movement less and less, and the result can be catastrophic to our bodies. The reason you may feel ‘so tired’ from sometimes doing nothing is due to our bodies de-conditioning from not being used. Imagine this:

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You are the owner of a race horse, but over time you allowed it less and less time to roam and run free as weeks passed. Not before too long, they will become weak, lose energy, and in the instance you need them to perform, you’d have a better chance outrunning them yourself! It could be as simply termed as a “Use it or Lose it” principle, and although so simple, it can have a profound effect on quality of life.
Within just 90 seconds of beginning to stand, there is activation of the muscular and cellular systems responsible for processing cholesterol, blood sugars, and restorative energy flow to our tissues. These are some basic functions activated by simply managing our own bodyweight, and are responsible for fueling our cells. Dating back thousands of years, we could declare that our bodies were built for movement. Our structural design is to engage in activity for long periods of time and we all hold the capacity to do so; it’s a matter of if we can harness our true ability.When we stop moving for an extended period of time, we subconsciously tell our bodies to turn off and do ‘nothing’, similar to putting a computer in sleep mode. I won’t dive into the specifics, but the effects can lead to degeneration of our heart, pancreas, colon, brain, muscular systems, and postural misalignments.

I get it, in reality, it is truly unavoidable to sit. I mean honestly, I had to sit on my commute into work, I’m sitting writing this, we sit for our meals, classes, entertainment, and many other activities. Allowing our bodies rest from movement is important, please don’t think that’s my point here. But what I am saying is that our bodies are like an adaptive sponge; they will become conditionally acclimated to whatever we let them soak up. If we fuel it with sedentary behaviors, then we will adapt and condition to doing nothing. Sitting is not the danger, but the dosage of it is!!

“ACTIVELY SEDENTARY IS THE NEW CATEGORY OF PEOPLE WHO ARE FIT FOR ONE HOUR FIT SITTING AROUND THE REST OF THE DAY… YOU CAN’T OFFSET 10 HOURS OF STILLNESS WITH ONE HOUR OF EXERCISE.” -KATY BOWMAN

Engaging in physical activity throughout the week is extremely important for a boat load of reasons, but it isn’t a fix all solution. There are 168 hours during the week, so 5-8 hours of exercise is not the only thing standing between you and a well-rounded healthy lifestyle. Lately, I’ve been speaking with more people on building better movement, losing weight and maintaining healthy habitual practices (and loving that my opinion is valuable). My first question is always, “What do you do when you are not training?” Just like you can’t out-work a poor diet, you cannot expect your aches, pains, and fitness levels to soar with such a small fraction dedicated from your lifestyle.

BE CONSCIOUS OF YOUR BE-ING

Not everyone has the ability to train for hours a day at their leisure. In a perfect world that wouldn’t be the case, but sorry to burst the bubble if you live in a fantasy world, we are forced to make sacrifices at some point or another. When it comes to sitting, since we do it every, single day, should’t we focus on how we do it? You wouldn’t want to walk into the gym and, without any instruction, load up a barbell to go back squat or deadlift…I hope (please don’t prove me wrong!). So why not learn how to efficiently sit to reduce the dangers associated with this potentially dangerous behavior?

LET’S BEGIN WITH THE BIG IDEA OF THIS BLOG; HOW TO SIT

Sounds so simple, right? I mean we have been sitting and standing since before we had teeth or could talk, what’s the big deal? Believe it or not, sitting and standing are more technically demanding then you think, but we often do them without a single care in the world. They require ‘top to bottom’ synchronization of our structure to be in proper alignment. In order to get into this alignment, you need to get organized with a bracing sequence. Below I’ll list each step individually, but should be practiced to a point where they can all be performed in a few seconds…

The bracing sequence I use and found best to use and communicate to students is from ‘Becoming a Supple Leopard’ from Dr. Kelly Starrett. Each step will be added to the previous, so it will be like building a pyramid; one step builds upon the next, and the next:

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Start: In order to fully understand the changes necessary to go from ‘poor’ to ‘proper’, let’s start in an ugly position; hyperextension in our lumbar spine, anteriorly tilted pelvis (belly button down), medial arches of the feet collapsed, and forward rounded shoulders, typical faults we usually have.

Step 1: Place your feet directly under hour hips, toes forward and hips parallel. Externally rotate your hips by “screwing your feet into the ground” toward the outer border of your pinky toes. You aren’t re-positioning your feet at all, but rather applying torque properly through your feet which will align your hips to create a rock-solid structure. **side note: This is one of my favorite cues to get people externally rotating their hips in a squat.** Not only does it lead to a greater chance of force development, but will also aid in preventing valgus collapse (when the knees collapse toward each other, especially on the upward movement).

Step 2: Imagine your pelvis was a bowl full of water. You don’t want to dump it out over your toes, because that makes a wet, sloppy mess. Instead, we want to posteriorly tilt our pelvis back to neutral. This will initiated by engaging our glutes to support the pelvis and trunk. You don’t need 100% tension as if you’ve been holding back a fart in church, but they shouldn’t be totally relaxed either; just enough to keep your bowl of water level.

Step 3: Take a belly breath and expand your rib cage. Too often, we take shallow breaths, expanding our chest and underutilize our lung capacity/ability. Imagine your lungs as a balloon, we want to fill them entirely to obtain maximal benefits. Take a big breath to expand your diaphragm. To reinforce this, practice by lying on your back, placing one hand on your chest and one on your belly button, taking long breaths in and out. If done correctly, your bottom hand should be the only one to move.

Step 4: Here is where we focus on ‘locking our ribcage down’. This occurs when we exhale and feel your trunk tighten up and engage. This isn’t sucking in our stomach, rather compressing our abdomen toward our midline, developing intra-abdoninal pressure to support our spine, thus becoming more rigid and resilient. Instantly you should notice not just your superficial abs engaged, but 360 degrees of trunk tension. Your lower back, obliques, anterior core, and the deep muscles holding your structure all supported and ready for action.

Step 5: Tuck your chin back in space, almost to give yourself a slight double-chin, this will stack our cervical spine safely. As you do so, externally rotate your shoulders (cue = separate your clavicles, draw scapulas back and down into your rear pockets) without compromising with your head and neck. This will bring you into optimal positioning.

Finish: Tada! You have just become a more bulletproof human! Through all of these steps, we have stacked and braced ourselves into an ideal support structure for: 1) Enhanced Performance, 2) Injury Prevention & 3) Efficiency. By adjusting the ears over your shoulders, ribcage locked down, hips over our ankles, and properly torqued, the body is in ideal alignment!

**To carryover this into a seated position, proceed through all of the steps, then after the ‘finish’ position, drive your hips backward into a hinge-like position and find your seat (Think of it like a Box Squat!)**

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The biggest fault many of us succumb to is a loss of the abdominal tension created after a few minutes of sitting. It is not a test of muscular strength, rather muscular endurance that dictates our spinal positioning. It is much easier, comfortable, and requires no effort to melt into our chair or lean over likethe Quasimodo from the Hunchback of Notre Dame. The best way to combat this positioning is to re-organize yourself every 15-20 minutes. The sooner the better, but sometimes it is unrealistic to ask demanding upon your profession. Most of us can not stay aligned for more than 20 minutes because we are already focusing on 101 Dalmatians other things a second, so be conscious and aware! Every time you stand up to do so, it’s a perfect opportunity to perform some mobility and joint care, no matter how brief it may be, it is always a positive! Some Controlled Articular Rotations, breathing re-focus, and bodyweight movement make your body very happy, and after its regular addition into your routine, I guarantee you will notice a difference in your quality of life and physical movement.

Add some kneeling at your desk while you work to alleviate posts and hip flexor ‘tightness’, or even standing while typing some emails as a change of pace. Walk around while taking a phone call instead of kicking your feet up throughout the day, and mixing in some movements during commercials of The Walking Dead are just some examples. Brainstorm what will fit what you do and make it an easy addition into your lifestyle. This isn’t the solution to all of your problems, but you will be surprised how large of a difference just a little more movement will make!!

Wishing you Great Health and Strength,

Coach Sean