Increasing energy is often the number one goal people have when they join the ThinkMOVE program. I define energy as the capacity to exert your mind and body towards some activity. Energy capacity goes down when you’re doing nothing for long periods. When you’re physically sedentary that’s literally doing nothing as far as your body is concerned. It makes sense then that your energy capacity would go down after sitting for long periods.
When talking about work productivity, employers may say on the one hand “I want more productivity’ , which means getting more done in less time. However, the approach of work , specifically with sitting, results in people training themselves to do less or having less energy capacity. Physically we are negatively training ourselves towards muscle loss, low bone density, reduced metabolism, reduce energy…but the demands keep going up and up and up. This recipe inevitably leads to burnout.
These trends are moving in opposite directions. Specifically, the more sedentary we are the lower our capacity to get things done.
So what can be done about this? We need to move. We need to physically activate our bodies and stimulate our bodies enough so that our energy rises and we feel that we can do all the things we need to do. The thing about being sedentary is it’s insidious. It’s a way of working that has permeated the culture and the effects are quietly incremental. This is similar to how a young child’s growth may be less dramatic to a parent than to a family friend who only sees the same child once every few months.
Because of the incremental nature of problems associated with sitting, a person might not be motivated to take action until the damage has already been done.
For the office worker, this slow climb towards weight gain, back pain and potential chronic illness becomes a problem that gets ignored daily. What can be done anyway? Sitting as a way of working has been unquestioned now for almost a hundred years.
People can take the leap and start practicing movement. Through regular movement throughout the day, they’ll start to feel their bodies again; they’ll experience body consciousness. Movement creates a connection to our bodies such that we realize the mind and body are not separate but are one whole.
This training of movement initially opens the door to many of the sensations of pain that people weren’t aware of before practicing movement. For some people this may result in a feeling of guilt. “What have I done to my body?”, “I should have done something sooner.” , “Is the damage irreversible?” Just like any change process, it’s normal to feel sad or regret about something that was missing. For example, a parent that wasn’t aware that their child was being bullied at school for almost the entire year until he burst out crying hysterically one day when he’s told to go to bed.
There’s no sense punishing yourself now for something that you weren’t aware of before. After all the problem of being sedentary is a widespread cultural phenomenon and not the fault of any one person.
Instead, we can practice appreciating what we have whether it’s our senses, our ability to breath, our ability to move. These things are basic but so critical for life. The act of appreciating yourself can give you the strength to make the changes you desire plus it feels really good.
The problem with traditional exercise is for someone who has been inactive for a long time and has not been exercising regularly, an intense workout can be so depleting that it can negatively impact the body with too much stress. The immune system can be overburdened with too much too soon and you might actually get sick, which will throw off the whole routine of doing more exercise. Long bouts of exercise also triggers hormones related to increasing appetite, something called the caloric consumption effect, which means you get extra hungry after workouts, which can lead you to eating more calories than you burned negating the positive benefits of exercise.
So what’s an alternatives ? If you are mostly sedentary throughout your day and you don’t exercise regularly, try focusing on short bouts of movement to start. Try to incorporate as many breaks from sitting as possible.
One suggestion is to do try taking a movement break every 30 to 60 minutes throughout your day.
Here is a link to the now popular Scientific 7-minute Workout.
However, instead of doing all these exercises at once, I would suggest doing each exercise for just 20 to 60 seconds once every hour depending on your current level of fitness. Invite at least one colleague to join you so you can have support and they can join in on the fun.
For the office , most of these exercises are fine except for :
Abdominal crunches (Here are 10 reasons not to do crunches. Short version: they’re dangerous and planks are better for core strength)
Stepping up on a chair (dangerous!)
High knees running on the spot. (swap with just jogging on the spot or Desk Jogging, a move from the ThinkMOVE program.)
Here’s the list of 10 exercises:
Wall sit (you can just hold chair pose)
Pushups (with hands on desk)
Tricep dips on chair
Plank (with hands or elbows on desk)
Jogging on the spot or Desk Jogging
Pushup and Rotation (with hands on desk)
Side Plank (with hands on desk)
I realize that doing this at your work may not seem realistic at this point. Workplace culture plays an important role in whether people feel they have the freedom to move. As mentioned, it might be helpful to enlist one friend/colleague to join you and to start the movement at your workplace.
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