Most people, including me, spend a large portion of each day in a seated position. It’s hard to avoid these days, as computer work predominates, and most also spend many precious hours each week commuting to and from work.
Interestingly, a growing body of evidence suggests that sitting in and of itself is an independent risk factor for poor health and premature death—even if you exercise regularly.
An increasingly sedentary lifestyle has led to a steady increase in a number of health problems, including:
- Heart disease
- Muscle wasting
While these disorders were historically associated with advancing age, they now affect increasing numbers of people well before middle-age. Even children are falling victim.
In the video above, Dr. Joan Vernikos,1 former director of NASA’s Life Sciences Division and author of Sitting Kills, Moving Heals, presents a scientific explanation for why sitting has such a dramatic impact on your health, and what you can do about it.
In another words, she was one of the primary doctors assigned to keep the astronauts from deteriorating in space, and what she found has profound implications for each and every one of us.
You might think, like I did, that if you had a phenomenal exercise program that you wouldn’t have to worry about prolonged sitting. But nothing could be further from the truth.
In order to figure out why regular exercise does not appear to compensate for the negative effects of prolonged sitting, some of her research focused on finding out what type of movement is withdrawn by sitting.
The Gravity of the Situation…
What she discovered was nothing short of astounding. “Standing was more effective than walking,” she says. And, it wasn’t how long you were standing, but how many times you stood up that made the difference. In conclusion, she discovered that it is the change in posture that is the most powerful, in terms of having a beneficial impact on your health.
In a nutshell, your body needs perpetual motion to function optimally. As Dr. Vernikos states, the good news is that there are virtually unlimited opportunities for movement throughout the day.
“The key to lifelong health is more than just traditional gym exercise once a day, three to five times a week,” she says. “The answer is to rediscover a lifestyle of constant, natural low-intensity non-exercise movement that uses the gravity vector throughout the day.”
Some of the examples she lists include housecleaning, stirring a pot of pasta sauce, rolling dough, gardening, hanging clothes to dry, dancing… the list is endless, because it covers the entire spectrum of movements you engage in during daily life. Interestingly, recent research2, 3 has also found that those who engage in community gardening projects have considerably lower body mass index (BMI) than non-gardeners. Overall, female community gardeners were 46 percent less likely to be overweight or obese than the average woman in their neighborhood, and men who gardened were 62 percent less likely to be overweight or obese than their non-gardening neighbors.
The problem is that our modern society and our reliance on technology has reduced or eliminated many of these opportunities for low-intensity movement and replaced it with sitting. Instead of walking across the street to talk to your best friend, you send them a text while slumped on the couch. Some people even text other family members inside the same house instead of getting up and walking into the next room! All of this sloth-like inactivity adds up.
To a lesser degree, a mini trampoline will also increase the G forces on your body and provide similar, yet less extreme, benefits. A mini trampoline or rebounder subjects your body to gravitational pulls ranging from zero at the top of each bounce to 2 to 3 times the force of gravity at the bottom, depending on how high you jump. Some of the benefits rebounding offers include circulating oxygen and nutrients to tissues and organs, and promoting increased muscle strength.
Counteracting the Effects of Sitting
While sitting down is not the only thing that can cause trouble (adopting any particular posture for long periods of time can slow down your circulatory system), sitting is one of the most pervasive postures in modern civilizations. So how can you increase your activity levels if you have a fulltime “desk job,” as so many of us do these days?
One of the things I do to compensate for the time I spend sitting each day is to regularly do Foundation exercises developed by a brilliant chiropractor, Eric Goodman. These exercises also address the root cause of most low back pain, which is related to weakness and imbalance among your posterior chain of muscles. It is easily argued that these imbalances are primarily related to sitting. I recently interviewed Dr. Goodman about his techniques, so to learn more, you can check out that interview.
Below are two video demonstrations: “The Founder,” which helps reinforce proper movement while strengthening the entire back of your body, and “Adductor Assisted Back Extension,” which will teach you how to properly extend your spine.
The basic Foundation Training program takes about 20 minutes, and is ideally done daily. You can purchase the Foundation Training DVD from my online store. Also offers several free videos , and their thought provoking first book called: Foundation: Redefine Your Core, Conquer Back Pain, and Move with Confidence.
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