Our joints like movement. Movement can stimulate bone, tendon and other tissue growth. Movement increases metabolism and burns calories. Everyone benefits from everyday general movement, even the fittest of athletes. So why are we cutting it out of our lives?

The World Has Changed

So many of us experience prolonged periods of inactivity as part of our daily routine. It’s part and parcel of modern society. For example, I was thinking of asking for a Google Home Mini for Christmas – “OK Google, play my Katy Perry Mix”. Am I really so against walking to my laptop and opening YouTube? Yes, the Google Home and such may be really fast and convenient but should such basic movements (and the benefits that come with them) be sacrificed for convenience?

Lots of technology on a table in front of a warm fire

How Much do you Move?

Lack of movement is part of modern day work and leisure. The majority of people now sit at computers, with heart rates only being raised when the boss spots them browsing through the latest Christmas deals (there is no training benefit to this increase in case you were wondering!) I’m not exactly typing this article whilst also doing heavy weight leg presses by the way.

A recent study showed that the average person during the day now sits for 13 hours, sleeps for 8 and moves for 3. Even if you engage in physical activity then this is still only adding a very small amount to this movement time. Further still, have you ever smashed a long morning run on a Sunday and decided to “reward” yourself by sitting in front of the TV for the remainder of the day? If this happens on a regular occurrence then you are an “Active Couch Potato” (but please don’t go running to A&E saying this – the doctors are hard pressed as it is).

Health and Fitness – They’re not the same

Here at Optimal Movement we see a number of very fit people, we also see very healthy people. We see healthy unfit people and we see unhealthy fit people. Cardiovascular health and cardiovascular fitness are intricately linked but they are not the same thing. Smashing yourself on a weekly 20mile run may not make up for 6 days of inactivity. Consciously and subconsciously, athletes find reasons to move less when they are away from training. One of Team Sky’s “marginal gain” philosophies is to spend less time on your feet – If you don’t need to walk then sit down, if you don’t need to sit then lie down instead. This philosophy is applied to some of the fittest athletes in the world but there is still a question that commonly arises – Are they actually healthy?

So what if I’m an Active Couch Potato?

Stethoscope lying on top of health results

General movement increases total health. We all want to be healthy because this is an attribute that sets us up for the long term. “Fitness” is something that fluctuates throughout the year, let alone throughout our lifetimes. General movement can enhance health on many levels, not only the below:

  • Posture
  • Muscle activation
  • Cardiovascular health
  • Hormonal balance
  • Social Interaction
  • Energy levels

There are both obvious and more obscure detrimental effects of long term immobility. For example, sitting for prolonged periods deactivates gluteal muscles, putting them in a constant stretch. It also shortens the hamstrings and hip flexors. The “hunched” position, exacerbated by desk work or driving, causes spinal imbalances and enhances neck and back pain.

OK, I’m an Active Couch Potato, what can I do?

Fortunately it’s a condition that can be easily reversed. The key point to focus on is to AVOID LONG TERM STILLNESS and prolonged periods whilst holding the same position. If you spend a long time at the desk (obviously this is inevitable if you have a “desk job”) then take calls on the move, become a member of the “tea making club”, get up and move about. You could even ask your boss for an adjustable desk and alternate between sitting and standing (constantly standing all day can cause further detrimental issues though so bear this in mind). The general rule is to take a 1-2 minute “movement break” every 20 minutes and a 5 minute break every 2 hours. Set an alert on your watch or phone to remind you, there are plenty of apps out there that can help. Not only will this increase your overall health but also make you more mentally productive. If your boss complains then tell him/her (politely) to read this article – a healthy workforce is a productive one. The “movement break” rule also applies if you’re spending long periods on the sofa……a moving body is a more productive one.

Man stretching after spending a long period at desk

Other Top Tips

Elevator and stairs decision

When you get to work in the morning, pick up your kids from school or make the weekly food shop, don’t be that annoying person that tries to get as close to the entrance as possible, park in one of the spots that are further away. You are a healthy individual remember and think of all those extra steps! Just because you beat your parkrun PB yesterday doesn’t mean you should be taking the elevator instead of the stairs today. Not only will taking the stairs increase your energy levels but enhance your recovery time.

General everyday movement, even if you are an elite level athlete, should become habit. A little goes a long way and the benefits will set you up for life. Not only will you enhance your health on many levels but you’ll also inspire those around you to do the same (and think of what a positive effect this could have on the world!) Now get up from that sofa and fetch yourself a glass of water….