Don’t Just Sit There, Part 2 (in which Susan’s 4-Step antidote to sitting is revealed)

don't just sit there woman slumped at computer
Sunday, I wrote about the article that sent me down a rabbit hole of research about the negative effects of sitting for extended periods. Today, I offer a 4-step strategy for combating the downsides of modern life in a chair that I’ve been playing with for years:

Step 1a & 1b. Move and Move
Step 2. Be aware
Step 3. Move differently
Step 4. Repeat

You may get the idea from that but perhaps it would be helpful to shed more light on my 4-step strategy:

Step 1a. Move

Your body is designed to move. Please. For the love of Pete. Move. Every day. Some way. Move. Get your body mobile in a way that feels good to you. Even 20-30 minutes of movement is better than skipping it altogether. Move Every Day.

Step 1b. Move

When you’re sitting, take breaks. Every 20-25 minutes, get up, stretch, get some water or tea (this helps in two ways: the fluids hydrate you and they’ll make you have to pee which is another way to take a break from sit-sit-sitting). Do everything you can to not sit longer than an hour without a break.

Step 2. Be aware

Knowledge is power and observation can be revelatory. Understand the cycle of tight and weak that surround extended sitting. Observe how you sit and notice what parts of you are overworking (tight) and what parts are underworking (weak). Notice where you feel stiff when you get up from your desk or out of the car. Low back pain may be a result of weak abs and butt with tight hip flexors and hamstrings. Upper back or shoulder pain may stem from overworked chest and neck muscles and underworked rhomboids. Check it out. See what’s happening. Armed with your awareness, go on to step 3.

Step 3. Move differently

Not only is the body designed to move, it’s designed to move in a multitude of ways. Move your body in lots of them. If, in Step 1a, you like to walk or run, play with doing it in different ways: walk on rocky paths as well as paved, run up hills or steps and not just on flat surfaces, swim different strokes, bike off road as well as on. Your body loves variety so experiment with different kinds of yoga, different fitness classes, different sports, and different styles. In Step 2, you may have noticed that your chest needs stretching or your glutes need strengthening to create more balance in your body. Use what you notice about your own body to make informed choices about movements that will strengthen what’s weak and lengthen what’s tight.

Step 4. Repeat

Keep doing it. Aristotle said “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” Replace the word “excellence” with “health” or “ease” or anything else you want to create in your life and you can see that this is not a 3-month plan or something you can check off your list.

Move, Be Aware, Move Differently. Over and over. As long as you possibly can. With a little luck and commitment, that will be longer than if you don’t.

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