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Is Sitting Really that Bad for Us?



We are a sedentary society. Everything is organised around convenience (we are willing, even eager, to pay for it), and convenience means that you don’t have to move to get what you want. We can order food from the convenience of our own home, we can learn anything online from the convenience of our computer, we have appliances for cooking, gardening, brushing our teeth or cutting wood. During this Covid year we have also learned to socialise online without moving from our seat.


And given that we hardly have to move in order to survive, we have found out that we move too little, and we have invented exercise. If our ancestors could see us going for a run without any objective, or lifting weights whose sole purpose is to be lifted, they would raise an eyebrow for sure. They moved when they had to, and they rested when they didn’t. We have evolved to save energy because it’s the economical and efficient way to live.


Looking at hunter-gatherer societies today (the few that our civilisation hasn’t exterminated yet), it seems they sit just as much as we do. They get up to do what is necessary, and they sit when they can. The differences are few but enlightening.


First: their life-style requires movement. Normal daily living involves walking quite a bit and doing all sorts of physical activities. They don’t have a word for exercise, and the idea of it would seem ridiculous to them.


Second: They don’t sit on chairs. They sit on the ground, on a log, on a rock, on a bed of leaves. I believe the modern idea that “sitting is the new smoking” refers to sitting on chairs. A typical chair defines your body structure as you sit. You have your hips and knees at 90 degrees. The position is practically always the same.


When you sit on the ground, there are a hundred different ways to sit. Your hips adopt quite a variety of angles and directions, your knees bend through their entire possible range, and you hold your back upright.


Look at small children playing on the floor and you’ll see the enormous variety of ways to sit, and the effortlessness with which they hold themselves upright. Societies that stay in close proximity with the Earth maintain this variety and this effortlessness until old age.


My colleagues who work with children report a clearly visible gradual reduction of hip mobility in school children. As we grow up, leave the ground and start using chairs, we gradually lose the ability to sit on the floor with a straight back, and our hips become stiffer.


So let me rephrase the idea: Sitting on chairs is the new smoking. There is nothing wrong with sitting, but immobility is clearly bad for us. It would be a great idea to have a corner in your living-room for sitting on the floor. A few cushions, a low table to put you cup of tea… Lean on the wall if you need to, stretch your legs and have a good book and a good cup of tea handy.


And when you do your inevitable hours of sitting on a chair in front of the computer, do get up at least once an hour. Simply get up. Go to the bathroom, drink a glass of water, stretch your arms, whatever.


And if you feel the need to turn it into a habit and have a clear idea of what to do when you get up, I have just the thing for you. I have designed a 5-week course to help you create the habit of occasional, very short one-minute breaks, in which you do small and slow conscious movements that help you focus, regain mobility, reduce stiffness and pain, recharge and re-energise yourself, and what’s more: you’ll love and enjoy these little breaks and will look forward to the next one.


Sounds interesting? Take a look at the course page. If you sign up to get more information, you’ll be able to schedule a short habit-checkup call with me so we can have a chat and see if this is a fit for you.


Take a look at the homepage of FROM STIFF TO NIMBLE.


Launching on February 14th.


Might be interested? Schedule a free call with me. Just enter this online calendar and reserve a 20-minute Habit-Checkup Call.

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