This just in: sitting in chairs is lethal.
Yogis already know that sitting leads to tight hips and shortened psoas muscles. Now, a comprehensive new study shows that prolonged sitting doubles your chances of diabetes, heart disease and death.
To come up with this finding, Dr Emma Wilmot, a research fellow in the Diabetes Research Group at the University of Leicester, combined the results of 18 studies, with a total of 794,577 participants.
If you don’t think this applies to you, because you stand on your head every day, or run marathons, here’s the scary part:
“The associations [between sitting and disease] were independent of the amount of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity undertaken, suggesting that even if an individual meets typical physical activity guidelines, their health may still be compromised if they sit for long periods of time throughout the day.”
No wonder, as Andre Picard wrote in the Globe and Mail: “Sitting is the new smoking.”
So how do we butt out if our jobs require us to sit?
Happily, it doesn’t take much.
“Prolonged sitting sharply reduces glucose and insulin secretion, key factors in developing diabetes,” Picard writes. “But these changes can be offset by standing up and walking two minutes for every 20 minutes of sitting.”
(Alert readers of this blog will note that medical science has officially caught up with the Pomodoro technique, invented by computer programmer Francesco Cirillo. He prescribes standing up and moving around for five minutes after every 25 minutes of focused deskwork.)
If you’re going to stand up and move around anyway, why not take a yoga break?
Click on the Five-Minute Yoga Challenge category, or enter Five-Minute Yoga Challenge in the search box at the top right hand corner of the page, and you’ll find 42 suggestions – 43 if you count today’s.
This one is simple, and office friendly – at least if you’re in an office that’s friendly towards taking your shoes off.
It’s also brief. You can easily do two repetitions, go get a glass of water, and be back at your desk in five minutes.
And it takes care of your feet, which is essential if you plan to keep on moving.
Here’s how to stretch your feet on a wood brick:
Set a pair of wood bricks up at the wall, short ends facing out.
Place the sole of your foot, just below the line of the metatarsals, on the edge of the brick and stand on your heels.
You’ll feel an intense stretch in your calves and the backs of your ankles.
At first you’ll need to lean into the wall to keep your balance.
As you become accustomed to the sensation, begin to roll your buttock flesh down towards your heels, and bring your upper body away from the wall.
Look forward, rather than down.
Hold the stretch for 90 seconds, rest, and repeat.
I would never pretend that this is a comfortable stretch. It gets better with practice, but it’s always bracing.
The payoff, however, is huge. You’ll feel it in your first few steps – a light, open, energized feeling that comes from stretching the fascia on the soles of your feet, your Achilles tendons, and your calf muscles.
Besides, coming to terms with the intense stretch also gives you a safe, easily curtailed chance to practice managing discomfort.
Can you be there with your face soft and your breath easy? What’s it like to voluntarily move out of your comfort zone and stay there?
And that said, if it’s excruciating, try stretching one foot at a time. You might find that after the initial stretch, alternating feet, you’re able to move on to stretching both at the same time.
And when you sit down again, remember to set your timer.
Photo courtesy of Nicki Varkevisser, via Flickr
Mongolia? Death Valley? The southern tip of South Africa? Yup, those are exotic places to do yoga.
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