People always say that you need to live a healthy lifestyle. What exactly does that mean? To most people, living a healthy lifestyle is going to the gym 4-5 days per week and sticking to a healthy, clean diet. While I’m in favor of anything that gets people active and eating well, an hour per day in the gym is not enough – neither is a spin class, a hot yoga class or a long run.
It’s true, one hour per day and a healthy diet can keep you slim and sexy. That part is a matter of calories in, calories out. However, having a beautiful-to-look-at body won’t be enough for you one day.
All gym goers – actually, all humans – have one thing in common: you are going to grow old. The question is, how do you want to grow old? Do you want to be the 75 year old who still lives by himself, can still play with her grandchildren, who can walk confidently and unassisted? Or do you want to be the 75 year old who lives in an assisted living or nursing home, who needs a walker to walk, who sits on a bench and watches her grandchildren run around the yard and isn’t able to follow them? Do you want to be the 45 year old who has already had two knee surgeries and is on track for a hip replacement because of osteoporosis? Or do you want to grow old with all your own joints and bones? Do you want your child to be the
Another question is, how do you want to be young?
Do you want your child to be the 14 year old who pees a little when she sneezes because years of sitting at a desk have affected her pelvic floor muscles? The child who is diagnosed with arthritis in his early twenties because he overused a body that wasn’t aligned correctly to begin with?
What’s the best healthy lifestyle tip I can give you?
The most important thing you can do is take care of your bones, joints, muscles and organs by engaging in a lifestyle of movement. A lifestyle of movement isn’t about running, lifting heavy weights, working up a sweat or burning a lot of calories – it’s about returning to a way of life that helps maintain optimal alignment and healthy bones and joints. You can do all the fun, extreme fitness stuff to some degree – but only when you’ve set a foundation for your body to handle it.
The most important element to a lifestyle of movement is… you guessed it… movement.
Movement keeps your muscles strong and mobile. It keeps your tissues pliable and hydrated. It prevents you from losing range of motion and postural strength as you age, which ultimately limits your ability to move independently.
Working towards a lifestyle of movement means workings towards:
1. Putting your joints and body in as many different positions as possible, per day.
Examples of possible “resting positions” – squatting, sitting cross legged, sitting cross legged with one leg out, sitting with legs apart, kneeling on two knees, kneeling on one knee, sitting with legs in a butterfly, lying on your stomach, lying on your side, lying on your back, sitting in child’s pose, standing, standing with one leg up, standing while leaning forward onto something and sitting in a chair with your legs elevated.
Examples of possible “active positions” are infinite – walking, running, walking while carrying an object, squatting, bending and lifting, lunging, digging with a shovel and more.
2. Avoiding any one position for too long, especially the 90/90 position of sitting in a chair.
An hour per day in the gym is not enough time to counteract 8 to 10 hours sitting.
To accomplish goal #1 and #2 (above), you must make changes to the way you live.
The #1, best thing you can change?
Minimize the presence of chairs/couches in your life.
This means modifying your home, your office or your school to allow for more movement.
What’s the problem with chairs?
They’re not self limiting. That means the nature of the chair doesn’t inspire movement. The 90/90 position doesn’t put any of your joints in an extreme, active position. Cushioned surfaces mean that you’re not bothered by the downward pressure of your body onto the chair surface, as you would with other types of sitting.
In other words, sitting in a chair is so comfortable that you don’t want to move and you don’t need to move. You could sit for hours without getting uncomfortable enough to move. So you do – you sit for hours while your body stiffens and your muscles don’t do anything. You miss out on countless chances to move your body into different positions, helping you to stay strong and limber.
If you squat, your hips will begin to ache after 5 minutes. When you kneel, your feet will begin to lose circulation from the weight of your hips on your feet. When you stand, eventually you’ll get tired and want to sit down. And so on.
In theory, you could achieve 5 different body positions in the course of a day (during your “chair life”) or you could achieve 10 different body positions more than five times each in the course of a day (during your chairless life) Multiply that by the number of days in a week, the number of weeks in a year, then the number of years in your life… if you live until 80, then you are doing 145,600 different body positions compared to 1,456,000 different body positions over the course of your life time.
That’s a pretty big difference in the health of your joints, your overall mobility and about one million billion gazillion trillion other health benefits associated with activity.
Living with minimal sitting can sound pretty intimidating/crazy/overwhelming/etc. to begin with… but I assure you it’s possible and actually pretty easy. And people everywhere are doing it.
Not ready to ditch your chairs and couches completely? Change the way you use them. I have a mental rule that I won’t sit on my bottom in a chair. I sit cross legged. I kneel on chairs. I sit like a pretzel. I sit on the floor and use the chair as a desk. Anything is possible! The more you practice a lifestyle of movement, the more natural it becomes.
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