Humans Were Made to Move - Joel Helland, Occupational Therapist
Humans were made to move. Think about this for a minute. Our ancestors didn’t kill their food and feed their families by sitting around a campfire or by watching deer run by. As 2-footed, upright beings, they scavenged, hunted, gathered, and actively found ways to survive and ultimately stay alive. Over time, society has changed, as have the physical demands (or lack thereof) placed upon us. Unless you live in the Northwest Territories, chances are you aren’t killing your food to feed your family. The point is we are a much less active society than our ancestral counterparts.
Today, many occupations involve sitting for prolonged periods; the opposite of active movement. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to think of an occupation that involves prolonged sitting.
For example, those with desk jobs, surveillance monitoring, taxi drivers, and yep, you guessed it - professional drivers.
If you do some simple math, a professional driver spends on average 13,200 minutes a month sitting behind the wheel (calculated by twenty 11-hour days).
The remaining time is spent sleeping (lying), eating (sitting), going to the bathroom (sitting/standing), filling up or maintaining the truck (standing), or typically walking short distances in/out of convenience stores.
By now you may be thinking, “what’s so bad or unhealthy about sitting?” or perhaps, “here comes the buzz phrase… sitting is the new smoking.” Instead of associating negative connotations with sitting, let’s instead draw our attention to the lack of active movement that is a consequence of prolonged sitting.
One of my university professors once proposed, “exercise and active movement aren’t so much about muscle building as it is getting rid of CO2, a toxic gas in our bloodstream.” Other instructors stated, “movement is medicine” and “humans weren’t designed to sit.” All of these phrases left their mark on me and took a while to digest.
But what do they mean?
Let’s put this into perspective.
If you’re sitting, chances are you are shallow breathing for 13,200 minutes a month. This results in CO2 build-up in the bloodstream and can leave you feeling tired, achy, and sluggish. Secondly, active movement allows oxygen, blood flow, and nutrients to nourish your muscles, joints, and ligaments.
Think about it. It only makes sense… when we wake up and feel stiff, or sit for too long, what do we do to feel better?
Go for a walk!
In other words: engage in active movement and nourishment!
The last point speaks to the body mechanics of sitting. First off, the majority of us do not sit properly, and if we do, can’t maintain this position for very long. Poor sitting posture results in postural asymmetry (eg. upper body twisting, head and shoulders jutting forward, leaning to one side). This is hard on our bodies over time, as we were designed to be symmetrical.
Lastly, think of gravity’s role in sitting - gravity pulls from the top of your head to the tailbone.
The weight and force are constantly driven down to the vertebrae in your lower back (a very vulnerable area for injury). This is why the lower back is often the first body part to “speak up” when it’s time to re-position, weight shift, or stretch.
1. Listen to your body
Our bodies are very intelligent. Pay attention to the messages your nervous system is telling you. If you feel pain after 1 hour of sitting, take even a brief break at 45 minutes. Don’t push yourself beyond your tolerance. Be kind to your body and it will be kind to you.
2. Schedule active movement in your day
This is a marathon, not a sprint. Small simple steps will result in sustainable change over time. If you walk for 5 minutes every 3 hours, this results in 300 minutes over the course of a month! Your body will thank you.
3. Breathe Deeply
We all must breathe to stay alive. How conscious are you of how you breathe? Take a deep belly breath in and slowly exhale through the mouth. Repeat. Repeat again. Repeat until you feel nourished, oxygenated, relaxed, and alive.
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Thank you again for taking the time to listen, and I hope you have a safe day!