Sitting: rest and RISK! (Is sitting killing us?)

Sitting makes up for a major part of our daily lives. The modern lifestyle requires us to sit for large periods of time. While it can be a wonderful rest to sit for a while after a long walk or a period of hard work, sitting is now more and more becoming a risk to the health of our bodies.

In this blog post we will look at the dangers of sitting too much, what problems it causes, how we can avoid or at least diminish those problems and so how to create a healthy balance between the “rest” and the “risk” elements of sitting.

The main problem with sitting all day long is that it prevents us from doing other (healthier) activities. When we are sitting, we are not walking, running, crawling, swimming, climbing, lifting or even standing. Not few of us sit for 15 hours a day, so not much time is left for those other activities. We really have turned into sedentary people. And as they say, the problem is, sedentary people can’t run away from diseases (this slogan was actually used by the Portuguese Ministry of Health in a campaign to promote a healthier lifestyle).

Also, we are not saying that sitting is inherently bad since it can be a nice resting position for a while after other activities and can also help us concentrate while we need to accomplish important tasks that require fine motor skills.

On a muscular level, prolonged sitting leads to several issues that with time have the potential to create major imbalances in the body.
One of them is that during sitting, the gluteal muscles (glutes, butt muscles) “switch off”, that means they become inactive or inhibited due to being in a lengthened position for a long time. Another related issue is that the hip flexor muscles tend to become short and tightened. Apart from those, there are potentially a lot of further muscular imbalances and postural problems related to long periods of sitting (often spent in horrible body positions), which include a rounded upper back (problems with thoracic spine extension, tight upper back and neck muscles) that in turn can lead to a host of other problems.

But apart from the muscular imbalances it can create, sitting brings even greater risks to our health. A recent study from Australia has shown that individuals who sat in front of the TV for four or more hours a day had an 80% higher risk of death from cardiovascular disease than for those who reported watching fewer than two hours daily. Other studies have shown that the increased risk to develop life-threatening conditions like obesity, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease coming from prolonged sitting was unrelated to whether people did exercise or not. That means that, even though exercise is extremely important as part of a healthy lifestyle, in itself it cannot undo the health damages of prolonged sitting.

The infographic at the end of this post will further explain why sitting might be killing us.

Now, let’s look at how we can avoid or at least limit the problems and dangers that go along with sitting for extended periods of time.

I would like to introduce the concept of microbreaks which are precisely one effective tool to counteract the perils of sitting. Microbreaks are very small breaks that one takes every 10 to 20 minutes from one’s working position if it is a static position like in sitting at a desk. While of course it would desirable to have longer breaks, if taken every 10 to 20 minutes, breaks of just 30 to 60 seconds can already be sufficient to counterbalance the effects of sitting for an extended period previously.

To learn more details about microbreaks, please see the extensive article of Paul Ingraham of SaveYourself, the small microbreak brochure including two exercise descriptions by LA chiropractor Craig S. Liebenson and the article by Coach Keats Snydeman from Arizona, USA. The latter has also posted a clear and informative video on the topic which you can see down below, followed by another video by chiropractor Dr. Steve Hoffman from “Core Wellness Institute”.

Having all this information in mind, let’s all be more active!
If you happen to have a desk job, set up a reminder on your computer to make you get up and have a microbreak every 20 minutes. Find ways of spending more time walking and standing, rather than sitting the whole day. Get up, stand up! It might save your life!

And to conclude this post, I’ll share an interesting infographic (created by medicalbillingandcoding.org) and some further links and with you below.

Sitting is Killing you - medicalbillingandcoding.org

1 – New York Times blog article on the dangers of sitting:

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/17/get-up-get-out-dont-sit/

2 – Great extensive article on shoes, sitting and lower body dysfunctions by Steven Law from EatMoveImprove.

http://www.eatmoveimprove.com/2009/11/shoes-sitting-and-lower-body-dysfunctions/

3 – Stanford University guidelines for microbreaks

http://www.stanford.edu/dept/EHS/prod/general/ergo/microbreaks.html

4 – Great article on the risks of sitting with practical tips by University of New Mexico researcher Len Kravitz, Ph.D.

https://www.unm.edu/~lkravitz/Article%20folder/sittingUNM.html

Sleep or die?

Our new topic is SLEEP.

Often neglected and disregarded, good and sufficient sleep is one of the fundamental pillars of health and well-being.

Sleep is what we all do during approximately one-third of our lives (depending on whether we sleep enough or not ;-D), without even being aware of it (except in rare cases).

It is also a very complex neurophysiological process that includes at least two very basic phases, REM sleep (rapid eye movement) and non-REM sleep.
For more information on the sleep phases and what happens inside of our bodies during those phases, look at the infographic below with the name “The Science of Sleep” (source: overstock.com) and watch either the excellent, but long lecture from the University of California or the shorter video with the title “Healthy Sleeping” on youtube (see below) – both are embedded at the end of this blog post.

To get more information on different aspects of sleep, I gathered some more nice infographics that you can see in their full size when you click on the pictures.

Infographic 2 – The Basics of Sleep (Source: http://www.tastyplacement.com/infographic-basics-of-sleep)
Infographic 3 – Sleep or Die (Source: http://yourlocalsecurity.com/in-good-measure/sleep-or-die)
Infographic 4 – How Sleep Deprivation Impacts Your Brain and Body (Source: http://www.onlinecollege.org/2012/01/30/how-sleep-deprivation-impacts-your-brain-and-body/)
Infographic 5 – Sleep is Awesome (Source: http://inoveryourhead.net/images/sleep-is-awesome.png)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anyway, sleep is a major factor in the quality of our lives and also heavily affects how we relate to each other in waking life.
On the other hand, the quality of our waking lives immensely affects the quality of our sleep, which Jiddu Krishnamurti, the founder of Brockwood Park School, points out in an entry (Rome, October 19th 1973) from the personal diary that he took from 1973 to 1975 (Krishnamurti’s Journal). The exact text of K’s journal entry can be found on the last page of the info presentation I put together with short information and pictures on the topic of sleep (see below).

See the info presentation (4 pages) here as a pdf-file (Care for the Body – Sleep – Info Presentation) and below as jpeg-files. Click on the pictures to see the bigger versions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last, but not least, here a couple of interesting videos on the topic of sleep, its importance for health and well-being, and some science behind it. Have fun watching them!

OK, hope this was interesting!
By the way, if you read this after 10pm, you better go to bed and get a good night’s sleep! 🙂
Thomas from Brockwood

Stress – From Savior to Killer?

Our first topic to look at is stress and following the title of a video I found on youtube, I gave this post the headline “Stress – From Savior to Killer?”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stress affects all of us in different ways, is inevitable in life and originally was very necessary for survival, but if it becomes constant and is not dealt with intelligently (as usually the case in the modern world and with our thought-based lifestyle), it becomes a major risk factor for our physical and psychological health.

An original definition of stress (by Hans Selye, who coined the term in its modern connotation in 1936) sees it as the non-specific response of the body to any demand (stressor) made upon it.
Stress is thus an hormonal response to many different causes that threaten to knock the body out of his natural state of homeostasis.

Faced with alarming situations the body produces so called stress hormones, especially adrenaline and cortisol, in order to help cope with the situation (like in the classical fight-or-flight situation that our early human ancestors were often faced with).

Likewise, the same response is triggered when alarming situations are merely anticipated, imagined or thought about, which – living in a society based on thought and time –  leads to constantly raised levels of stress hormones in the body. When produced continuously and in high amounts, those stress hormones lead or contribute to a variety of severe health problems (see graphic “How Stress affects the Body” below).

The ancient overvaluation of thought paired with the complexity and demands of modern day society contribute to an ever increasing amount of stress in people’s lives. This urgently needs to be looked at and dealt with for the benefit of both the individual and society.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To delve deeper into the topic, I gathered some interesting infographics and videos that you can see further down.

The infographic on “How Stress Affects the Body” created by heartmath.com shows different effects of stress on the body and additionally lists some important facts on the topic.
Source: http://infographicsmania.com/how-stress-affects-the-body/

There are many different causes of stress (so called “stressors”), some are inevitable and represent challenges that life just presents us with from time to time, but many of them are unhealthy habits. I created a small overview that lists a number of common stressors.

The following videos from youtube inform about different aspects of stress. The first of them is about the research of Stanford professor Robert Sapolsky who also wrote the popular book “Why Zebras don’t get Ulcers” on the topic. It is a kind of trailer for a very interesting and worthwhile longer documentary by National Geographic that can also be found on youtube. Its name is “Stress – Portrait of a Killer”.

I hope this post with all its information could give you a little overview on stress, its causes and effects and help with the understanding why it is so important do deal with stress in a sensible and immediate way.

If you want to investigate more for yourself, here some more tips for further reading:

Book Tip:

Robert M. Sapolsky – Why Zebras don’t get Ulcers

Websites and Articles:

http://www.stress.org/
Official Website of the American Institute of Stress

http://www.mtstcil.org/skills/stress-intro.html/
Online guide about stress

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=taming-stress
Article “Taming Stress” by Robert M. Sapolsky, from: Scientific American (Update 02/11/2012: Unfortunately, the article is no longer visible in its entirety, but only as a preview version.)

See you in the next post,
Thomas from Brockwood