Sitting Kills, Moving Heals: How Simple Everyday Movement will Prevent Pain, Illness, and Early Death – And Exercise Alone Won’t
Our lives have become increasingly sedentary. We sit all day and it’s making us sick. If you want to be healthy, live long and be independent – and who doesn’t — make friends with gravity. It is not the enemy that drags you down and ages you. In fact the opposite is true. We learned this from astronauts who without the benefits of gravity age much more rapidly.
Making all-day habits of simple, natural, every day movement that capitalizes on gravity, is the secret to youthful health and energy. Developing “G-Habits” of continuous motion is more important than exercise.
This book includes:
The Basis of this Knowledge
How using gravity differs from traditional exercise
A Step By Step Plan
A Health Assets Questionnaire
In the United States, two out of every three people are unhealthy. The enemy is a transformation in lifestyle that began with the Industrial Revolution. To a far greater degree than our grandparents we simply sit, all day long. We sit in our cars and trucks, we sit in our offices, and we go home in the evening and sit in front of the TV or the computer. Modern conveniences, designed to make our life easier, rob us of all the habitual movements we used to make when we lived without them — the small simple natural movements our grandparents used to make, day in and day out, throughout their entire lives.
The bad news is that too much sitting is killing us. New studies are showing direct relationship between hours sat and breast or colon cancer. Anything over 3 to 4 hours of sitting shortens life, even in people who exercise.
The good news is that there are unlimited opportunities for fitness all around us. The key to success lies in increasing the amount of natural, habitual movement throughout the day, each and every day including weekends.
I am not talking about getting more exercise — I’m talking about a different kind of exertion. I am referring to the multitude of small, low-intensity movements we make throughout the day as we go about the business of living. These simple movements — I call them “G-Habits,” because they resist the force of gravity — are the key to health.
Why is resisting gravity important? Think of an astronaut returning to Earth after a long tour aboard the International Space Station. For weeks, she’s been weightless, effortlessly floating in her cabin. But her body depends on the resistance of gravity to stay strong. Deprived of gravity, her muscles and bones have weakened ten times faster than on the ground. Her cardiac output and hearts size have decreased, her posture is stooped, and she has reduced sensitivity to insulin — in fact, it looks an awful lot like her voyage into space has rapidly aged her.
A modern, sedentary lifestyle deprives you of gravity as surely as an astronaut in space. In our chairs and couches, we don’t resist the force of gravity as we would if we lived an active life. And we age more rapidly, too. But don’t lose heart! Astronauts regain their health when they resume active living on Earth. And by cultivating some simple G-Habits, so can you.
Here are some G-Habits that can help keep you healthy and independent for the rest of your life:
Stand Up, Sit Down
The key to independence and mobility in old age is being able to stand up. It’s no more complicated than that. Start practicing now so you will be able to stand up and sit down without help for as long as you live. Do this exercise correctly to get the most out of it. From a using-gravity perspective, standing up is excellent, especially if you raise your weight out of the chair slowly and repeat it many times throughout the day. If you stand up quickly the same number of times, but in a short period, it is an aerobic exercise — note how your heart beats faster and you pant.
Stand tall; Sit tall
Remember that gravity pulls straight down, so standing tall makes you work upward against gravity. The straighter your posture, the more G-value, as you position your body in the optimal orientation to receive gravity’s pull. Our head weighs about 15 pounds and sits on top of the spine. The head is the only weight the upper spine carries. It serves to keep the bone density of the spine strong. Many of us tend to drop our head forward when we sit or walk. However, doing this reduces our spine’s work against gravity, and so it weakens, can become frail, our back muscles hurt, and we lose height.
The Stairs Option
Start off by taking the easy way up — elevator, escalator — and using the stairs going down. Going up stairs and going down stairs are two separate kinds of activities. Going down has a greater balance component; in addition, the impact loading with each step as you accelerate forward provides gravity stimulus to the bones in your legs, hips, and lower spine. Going up is more of an aerobic activity and builds stamina. It is also a form of weight training, as you pull your weight up each step. Going both up and down stairs are great exercises to strengthen muscles, but they work on different muscles, so you need to do both to strengthen both the front and back leg muscles.
When you walk, keep your sense of balance strong and move like a runway model by walking with your legs and feet close together. Aim to keep your gaze focused straight ahead rather than at your feet. This will help you walk taller and keep your spine strong.
A brisk walk in a park or other pleasant surroundings is emotionally rewarding and if you take an hour to walk two miles, you will burn a good number of calories. Former astronaut and U.S. Senator John Glenn makes a habit of power-walking two miles a day. As I write this, John Glenn is 91 and still going strong. He must be doing something right!
Joan Vernikos, Ph.D., is a medical research scientist and the former director of NASA’s Life Sciences Division. Her pother books include “The G-Connection: Harness Gravity and Reverse Aging”, and “Stress Fitness for Seniors”. This article is excerpted from her new book, “Sitting Kills, Moving Heals: How Simple Everyday Movement Will Prevent Pain, Illness, and Early Death — and Exercise Alone Won’t,” available from Amazon and Quill Driver Books (www.quilldriverbooks.com