There has been a drastic shift in type of work we’re doing on a regular basis as a society over the years. During the agricultural revolution, people worked hours in the tilling fields, planting crops, and pulling weeds. In the industrial world, manual labor was the norm and people worked long, strenuous hours building automobiles or running machinery or putting widgets together. These forms of labor were tough on the body because there was lots of bending, pulling, pushing and hauling with little to no rest.
Then the information age came to be and there was a shift. Suddenly we went from constantly moving to not moving at all. And that, along with some misguided nutritional recommendations, began a steady increase in weight issues and steady decrease in our joint mobility. We went from moving all the time, to not being able to move at all.
We’ve covered the effects of being sedentary on your metabolism before, so we won’t talk much about that here. It’s the overseen issue that we don’t hear as much about that I want to tackle. People are becoming less and less mobile at an earlier age, which is leading them to being more dependent on others as they get older. I want to show you how to fight that trend so that you don’t get stuck with a walker at the age of 65.
When I talk about being sedentary, most people would assume that I only mean sitting for long periods of time. And this is certainly one aspect of this lifestyle that I’m talking about. However, whether you’re sitting for long periods of time or standing for long periods of time, it will wreak havoc on your body in one way or another.
So when I say sedentary, I mean simply inactivity, or not moving. That can mean sitting, standing, or laying. Being inactive is the culprit to stiff joints and bad backs.
Let me give you an example. I’ve talked in depth about low back pain and how it can be caused by many different factors. Sitting, for instance, can cause low back pain in a couple of ways. Your core muscles are the muscles that are meant to help you stabilize as pick things up or move around. As you sit, your core muscles become weak because they aren’t required to do their job (stabilize your mid-section). Therefore, when you go to pick something up that is too heavy for your core to handle, the pressure goes to your low back.
Another way sitting effects your low back is tight muscles. Your muscles will form to the pattern you put them into most often. In other words, if you sit a lot, your muscles will form and adapt to the position of sitting. So as you sit, there are muscles that attach to your low back area that shorten up over time (most notably the psoas muscles). And as these muscles shorten, they start to tug on your low back, causing pain. So the pain in your low back isn’t necessarily caused from your low back area. It’s caused from the stick muscle that tugging on it.
As you can see, there are many different avenues to go down when trying to find the culprit to low back pain. And this rings true for many other types of joint paint as well. Shoulder pain, for instance, can come from tight muscles in the chest or tight muscles in your scapular region. Knee pain can come from tight muscles in the thigh or tight muscles in the calf.
If all of these things are happening because of a job or task that we are performing 8-10 hours a day, how are we supposed to fight it? How are we supposed to stay mobile, even when we’re sedentary most of the time?
Now that we have an understanding of how your body adapts to sitting or standing still, let’s see if we can figure out a way to fight back. There are some simple, effective actions that you can take to make sure that you don’t end up with a cane in your 60s. Understand, even though you see a lot of the older population with canes and walkers and scooters, doesn’t mean that that is the way it has to be. Your body is a product of how you treat it. And if you understand this, then you can be up and moving around until you die at age 130.
Before I get into the action steps for you to take moving forward, I’ll give you one broad recommendation for staying mobile into your late years. If all you do is simply make it a point to move ON PURPOSE at least 30 minutes a day, you’ll be far ahead of the game. Don’t make excuses. Don’t tell yourself you don’t have time. Don’t tell yourself you don’t have energy. Don’t take your health for granted. Your time on this Earth is fleeting, whether you see that or not. And the more action you take now to keep yourself moving, the more time you’ll have to enjoy in the long-run.
Now that I’m off my soap box, let’s get into the nitty-gritty. Here are 3 action steps for you to take to keep yourself mobile:
Although purposeful movement is a great step in taking you distance, sometimes this isn’t enough to assure that your quality of life is as good as it could be in the later years. Keeping your tissue as health as possible is imperative to overall body function. And foam rolling is a great way to do that without breaking the bank.
Shoot to do this once a day, preferably first thing in the morning. Make this about 5-7 minutes of good foam rolling to really get your tissue healthy.
Many people think that stretching is the key to staying limber. And it certainly is a way make sure you’re keeping good motion in your muscles. However, for those of you who are more time crunched, you would be better off focusing on mobilizing. What’s the difference?
In stretching, you’re attempting to pull a certain muscle group into it’s full range of motion and hoping to lengthen it over time (think of bending over and touching your toes). When you mobilize, you’re concentrating on keeping a full range of motion in a joint (think making big circles with your arms) without any pain or impairment.
Do this right after your foam rolling in the morning. This should take another 5-7 minutes. Cumulative time in the morning for your warm up is 10-14 minutes. Wake up earlier if you think you don’t have time.
We’ve created ergonomic chairs and keyboards and standing desks to try to make our posture as perfect as possible. And these things definitely help. However, even sitting in a perfect posture position for long periods of time is detrimental your anatomical wellbeing.
Try to change positions often, while maintaining quality spinal position. For instance, cross your left leg over your right, right over your left, sit back in your chair, sit forward in your chair, stand up, roll over, all while trying to maintain a nice neutral spine position. Remember, staying still is the enemy. So try to move positions every 10-15 minutes.
Also, if your job requires sitting a lot, try to stand every 30 minutes. Vice versa, if you stand a lot during your job, try to sit every 30 minutes. It doesn’t have to be a long period. Maybe 3-5 minutes. Just change your state so you don’t get too comfortable.
Keep yourself moving if you want to stay mobile for the long-haul. You don’t have to end up with a bad back and bad hips and bad shoulders. Take care of yourself now and it will pay off in spades for the future.