I was listening to a podcast today, and I heard something that I already knew as it’s not new news, but it really did get me thinking. I’m sure some of you may have read one of my recent posts about how even though we are going to gyms more than ever before, obesity is still on the rise, and in fact, statistics show that as gyms memberships go up, obesity levels mirror it. If you haven’t read it yet, click here (McDonalds and Gyms: the ultimate workout partners).
What got me thinking today however was when they began to discuss the trend towards 30 minute workouts, and how everyone is “too busy” for even 60 minutes. Well, let’s look at some interesting numbers.
Let’s take 2 office workers, Dave and Steve.
Dave goes to the gym 3 days a week, and trains for 1 hour. Steve does not go to the gym at all, never been. We take the 1 hour Dave works out, and we divide it my 24 hours in the day. We get 4%. Dave is only active 4% more that day than Steve.
Now, when we look closer and see Dave goes to the gym 3 days a week, we realize that Dave is actually only 1.7% more active than Steve at the end of the week.
If I was selling you something, would you be happy if I gave you a 4% discount? No? How about a 1.7% discount? Definitely not, you would say why bother?!
Now, lets look at the popular 30 minute trend many fitness trainers and gyms are promoting.
Lets say Dave decides to follow the trend we as fitness pro are promoting, workout 3 days a week for only 30 minutes. Now Dave is only 0.8% more active than Steve. Hardly worth mentioning….
We are not really helping! Yes, going to the gym and exercising is important, BUT we must do a lot more than 4%, 2% or 0.8%! We need to teach clients and the communities at large, the differences between daily movement, physical activity and focused exercise, and we need to promote the 2 former over the latter. Take a look at the Movement Pyramid below, we see that the #1 thing we need to focus on is daily low level movement, irregular and non-static positions. What does this mean? Well we have all heard that sitting is the new smoking, but we haven’t heard as much that standing is the new cigar.
There is very little to no evidence that says standing in one position for a long time is any better than sitting, and in fact it only leads to a number of other physical issues, especially with variables like improper monitor heights, hard flooring, elbow height, etc. Standing in one spot, is NO BETTER than sitting in one spot. A prescription I have created for this is the S3 works station: Squat, Sit, Stand, Work Station.
The S3 Work Station: Having a low bench position for a Squat position, a Sitting on a Swiss ball position, and a Standing position. But to add to that, we need to have the ability to make irregular positions with our body, particularity during standing. Raise a leg up on each side. Perform some hip hinges, small squats, glue squeezes, take a lunge break, just take a good big sun salutation stretch (I just did one now as I wrote this). Take a look at the pic below for example, today I am in a coffee shop working between a sitting desk and a bar height desk (not the best for the neck mind you), but when standing, I use the bar height chair to do some leg stretches. I can still work, but I’m in a slight mobility improving position. I move from the left to the right, as well as perform other lite stretches, and positions, such as small lunges, or 1/4 squats.
What you stand on is also important. The feet have as many sensory nerves as the hand, yet nearly everyone sticks them into sock and tight shoes, which is the same really as wearing frickin’ mittens all day long. Your feet need physical sensory stimulation. Look at Chinese reflexology, they focus on the feet, to stimulate parts of the brain. Purchase or make a nice river rock standing mat, or at least use a solid fatigue mat. I actually am making a triple threat standing station mat; river sock, fatigue, and wood, enabling my feet to get a diverse range of sensory input.
Secondly we get to Physical Activity. This is not intense efforts, what I am talking about here is walking when you can, speed walking, taking walking meetings, standing interviews, taking the stairs, maybe doing some purposeful low key stretching, or bodyweight squats. Just trying our best to let our feet do the effort, and not machinery. Biking to work, parking further away, etc. Just trying to get more active. I start every morning with taking my 2 year old for a short but fun 20 – 30 minute walk to start our day when he wakes up with a few lunges and squats and stretches. Once we get back to green Vancouver, we will add in some low level animal crawls and the like in the grassy parks as well.
Finally we get to Focused Exercise, this is where we focus on maximal efforts, muscle strain, cardio boundary pushing, maximizing mobility or flexibility. But it only serves as the tip of the pyramid. Studies have show for health and longevity, you only need to train the strength system twice a week for good results. Sure, I try to get to the gym 3-4 days a week, but I know it’s not the only movement I need in the day.
The Walk Away
It is important to realize that going to the gym, even 7 days a week is good, but it’s not 100% the answer (we now know it’s only at best 4% the answer). The answer is getting more movement and non-static positions into your day in total. Ask yourself, “how can I move that 4% to 10%, or 15% or even 20%?” It will take some work on your part, but starting the day with a nice walk, taking the stairs more, using less comfort furniture, learning a few stretches and thinking about how you can optimize your work environment is a great start.
Feel free to go to my YouTube page and see my “thriveLIFE office essential” stretches and exercise you can do (that won’t make you look too weird).