The one thing that is pretty much constant over all life forms is movement. Everything moves. From little bacteria, to plants leaning towards the sun, to a cheetah giving chase to gazelle, movement is quite literally wired into our Earthly DNA.
Bigger critters usually involve more constant movement, with the biggest animals on the planet, like whales, being in continuous movement from birth. Almost without exception, if movement stops, so does life. And I think that you’ll be in agreement that thumb typing on our phones isn’t the movement we’re talking about.
In our modern world, we humans have proven wonderfully clever. Even the fact that you’re reading this on an illuminated screen of amazing-ness is testament to how wide spread these and many other modern-hairless-monkey-tools are in our lives. These tools have allowed us incredible change to our lifestyle, productivity, and creativity, ranging from carbon filters for drinking water to GPS-ing your favorite Pokemon.
The shocking fact is that because of all this cleverness, instead of being in semi-constant motion, over 50 percent of the population moves with purpose less than ten minutes a WEEK. Are you in this percentage? It wasn’t so long ago that we were still in relatively constant motion throughout the day, more recently performing farmstead chores like herding the sheep, while looking further back, we would’ve spent most of our day in search of calories, in plant or animal form.
But I Don’t Have Time to Move
So what’s really the problem here? We may move less than our buffalo-herding relatives, but doesn’t working out make up the difference? Isn’t working out just the big, beneficial brother of movement? Sitting all day is okay, as long as I get my twenty minutes on the treadmill later, right?
Until very recently, we’ve all thought that those twenty minutes a day is enough to offset the lack of movement in our lives. We’re now finding, however, that this may not be the case. Funny enough, just “moving,” as in being in a little bit of motion more often, can have major benefits to your life. The good news is that you may not even need to put on a pair of sweats to get some of the positive effects of movement into your life.
You’re Not Made to Sit
You may not want to sit down before hearing this.
More and more research is revealing details about how our prevalence of sitting in front of screens is affecting our lives. Ironically enough, the events which we put the least effort into (sitting) may actually be the most detrimental part of our day.
Even if you’re the kind of person who has the habit and discipline of getting your workout in three to five times a week (you’re awesome, by the way), that may not be enough to undo multiple hours off of your feet. We’re now finding that if you sit at a desk all day at work, or even as little as two hours at a time, you may still be in the hole.
Researchers have discovered, to the surprise of many, that while regular exercise has wonderful benefits, exercise in and of itself doesn’t necessarily counteract the effects of spending long periods of time on your derriere. (1)
Now, I know what you’re thinking. It goes something like, “Great…so now in addition to all the cancer-causing processed foods and pollution in the air, sitting is bad for you? When will it end!?”
Take a deep breath, it’s gonna be okay!
The easiest thing to change is finding time, even though you may not believe that.
Changing your sitting habit, gratefully, is the easiest thing to change in your life. While changing eating habits requires at least a trip to the grocery store, getting up and moving, even a little bit, doesn’t require anything except rising from a seated position. You’ve got nothing holding you back!
Even a minute of two of stretching, or a few reps of the simple bodyweight movements I share below may help you counteract all the health your sitting-screens are stealing from you. You have time for ten squats here and there, or a dozen calf raises in the elevator. You could even perform lunges from one desk to the next in your office, or while putting the laundry away at home from one room to another (during commercials, of course).
Realizing that there is potential for movement throughout our day, and not just at defined “exercise time,” is one of the biggest points that I’m trying to make with this. You’re running out of excuses!
Even as I’m writing this, I’ve noticed that I’ve been on my butt for the past 30 minutes! Thanks to Amy Winehouse, I’m gonna get my groove on with the kids for three minutes… be right back. (Why don’t you put your device down, stand, and dance with me for a few minutes, too! Ready?)
[AWESOME Dance Break]
Integrating Movement Into Your Lifestyle
First, focus on one thing: you can do this.
The logical realization that follows is simply this: if you have time to sit, then you have time to move. Actually you HAVE to have time to move. As I mentioned at the top of this post, your life kinda depends on it.
Many of the aches and pains we have from lack of movement can be solved by simply getting up from our chairs every 15 to 20 minutes. Looking back to our Paleo brothers and sisters, we are meant to gather food, and chase buffalo all day long. Your body getting stiff throughout the day is a sign that you should be moving more, not less. Yet when people ache, they tend to sit more.
So, good news: we’ve established that you do, indeed, have the time. The other good news: you don’t need to change into your sweet spandex to make any of these simple movements happen. I’m not saying you shouldn’t still buy that new cute top from LuluLemon (it’s super cute and you should TOTally get it!), what I am saying is that there really is nothing to keep you from trying a few of these movements out during the day. The fittest moms, dads, and people in general who I know do little mini workouts throughout the day as a form of habit.
A side note: Having a small reminder, whether that’s an alarm on your phone or on your desktop set for regular intervals will help tremendously in your quest to get moving. A lot of us will set out to get this goal working, only to find that due to old habits, we simply forget that we intended to move more. Use your tech for the forces of good and let it help you get up and moving!
Another note: I am NOT saying that you shouldn’t be putting time in to actually “workout.” Doing your workouts, heading to the place where the barbells are, or getting your namaste on have huge value in your life and fitness. Don’t stop! Just don’t limit your view to gym time or workout time only. We need these little workout snacks in our lives between our fuller workout meals.
Why Workout “Snacking” is Good
Your fitness doesn’t have to be something that you address at a specific time during the day, every day. It can also be something that’s kind of always on the radar, worked into your day in little snack sized pieces, instead of one big “meal.”
A snack is like a little treat or a little something to have in between meals. Something to tide you over in between the big, fun times you’re taking in calories. Honestly, sometimes it’s my favorite part of eating! Similar to getting a few calories into you here and there, we’re going to talk about burning a few calories here and there throughout the day.
These workout snacks can take many forms, a few squats here, a few push-ups there, even something small like calf raises have their place. What we’re trying to do is get you in the habit of simply moving more. Not all of us are fortunate enough to work at a gym for a living. As much as we may wish it to be so, Candy Crush isn’t exactly a calorie burning endeavor. Ya dig?
I’m going to offer a few movements which lend themselves to easy utilization throughout the day. Essentially we’re going to assume that your workplace and/or home doesn’t have barbells, Olympic weights, and rowers kicking around. We want to get you moving, but try not have you end up being “that person.”
If you have the gig of kid-corralling all day, it may be true that you’re relatively more active than your friends and family in the office, but there are still opportunities to move with purpose a bit during the day. Let’s work that in!
For all of these movements, simply doing enough reps to get to a minute or so will be enough to reset the body. Getting movement in every hour, or even better, every thirty minutes or so will result in you having more energy and being more productive throughout the day.
How to Move Regularly
I’m presenting you here with a few movements I think will be easy to incorporate into your day. This is by no means an extensive list, it’s just a little peek into what you could use to break up your day a bit with movement.
These are a fitness standard for a reason: you need nothing but a floor, or if your super-Paleo, the ground. Below is a video of the basic push-up, but if you’d like to step things up a notch, try these 17 push-up variations on for size!
- Standard push-up. Toes and hands on the ground.
- Drop down until your chest touches the ground, return to the top.
- Down and up is one rep.
- If scaling and going from your knees, be sure your butt isn’t way up in the air. There should always be a straight line from shoulder to hip to knee to ankle.
The same applies here, this is a common movement pattern that we perform at least a portion of each time we get up from a chair. We want to take this common movement and get it into our day in an even more purposeful way.
- Standard “air squats.”
- Feet shoulder width apart, weight on the heels, knees tracking over the toes, hips dropping below the knee, hands in front for balance, and midsection firm and active.
Who wants a perkier butt? We do! Lunges are one of the staples of lower body movements. Working one leg at a time lets us also incorporate some balance and stability work while we move. Sure these may take some space, but if you’re coming back from the bathroom anyway, might as well throw in a few lunges down the hallway.
- Keeping feet shoulder width apart, take a nice long step forward.
- Bend the front knee, keeping the knee behind the toe, until the back (trailing) knee kisses the ground.
- Push back up, through the heel to the standing position.
- Repeat other leg.
- Keep the chest up, the whole movement should happen with a relatively vertical back.
You’ll want to use a steady chair (not a wheeled one) for this one. These work the arms in a slightly different way from push-ups, by stretching out the front of the shoulders and the chest, allowing you to counteract a bit of that slouch in posture that most of us have after sitting for too long.
- Sit just on the edge of a chair.
- Place your hands behind you and under your butt.
- Slide forward slightly, until you are braced up on your hands, and your butt no longer touches the chair (starting position).
- With legs straight ahead, drop your butt down as far as it will go, then using your arms, return to the starting position.
- The back side of your arm (triceps), should be parallel to the ground at the “bottom” of the movement.
Reach Back and Toe Touch
In any work, in any environment, you should have a wall available. In addition to the wall hold/sit, reaching over your head to the wall and touching the toes can be a great stretch and stress reliever.
- Stand, back to the wall, 12-24 inches away from a wall.
- With straight arms and minimal bend in the legs, look up and back, reaching straight up and overhead, then back with your hands until your hands touch the wall.
- Accelerate forward and touch your toes.
- For more challenge, move further away from the wall. You should kinda make “old man sounds” when you do this one. ;)
This static hold offers a way to get some blood back into your legs and to awaken your back. It’s a staple in yoga classes for a reason, it’s wonderfully activating!
- Stand with a neutral spine, draw the hips back and allow the knees to bend.
- Lean forward slightly until the torso is tilted about 45 degrees.
- Check that the weight is in your heels.
- Keeping the back straight, draw the arms up until they are reaching away from your body in line with the spine.
- Try to create as much distance as possible between your hands and your tailbone.
- For more of a challenge, try to sit lower until your hip is even with your knees (lap parallel to the ground).
While a bit more involved, a list of bodyweight movements is never complete without burpees. You may not always be in the appropriate attire for burpees, but if you are, cranking out a full minute at full speed will wake you up like a cold shower.
- From a standing position, place hands 18-24 inches in front of feet, kick both feet back, drop to push-up, jump feet back to start, stand and jump while clapping overhead.