I had a pretty shocking realization the other day: I sit down more now than I ever have in my life. That was eye-opening.
When I think back through my life, even in the times when I was a full-time student, I’d have periods of the day when I’d get in lots of physical movement interspersed with all of the sitting.
Later, as a stay-at-home mom to three kiddos, I definitely spent more of my day on my feet than off. Once my kids got older, I was teaching yoga at a minimum of 11 classes a week. So while I was sitting more at my computer doing business stuff, I was still teaching 5+ days a week.
Now that I’m an empty-nester, am only teaching 3 virtual yoga classes a week, and am busy creating online offerings, the amount of time I spend on my butt is astounding. And I can feel the effects in different ways.
I do notice that my body is happier in the places where I deal with chronic pain. For me, that’s my back (previous mild spinal fracture), my neck (so many cranky issues here), and my physical energy levels (caused by my chronic health stuff). Where my body shows its displeasure with all of the sitting is especially in my upper back, neck, and jaw (and all of the muscles associated with these places).
If you’re like me and you notice your body has mixed feelings about your activity levels (or lack thereof), don’t fret. There are plenty of solutions to help us live our most comfortable lives.
Honor your body’s requests
Even though I’m pretty in tune with my body, there are times when I’m kind of oblivious to my body’s whispers. Usually those inner nudgings are to slow down, but occasionally my body tells me I need to get in some more movement. Whatever your body’s *honest* insights are, consider listening to them. This means resting before you’re exhausted and getting some heart-pounding movement in when it’s only lack of motivation that’s holding you back.
Mix it up
What’s been really working for me is to vary my daily tasks throughout the day. On the days when I’ll be sitting at my laptop for a long time, I’ll be sure to drink lots of water. That’s a guaranteed way to get me up from my desk more often than I might otherwise – plus it gets me hydrated, helps my internal organs, and so much more.
I’ll also try to time other activities or tasks to coordinate with the other times when I’ll be sitting for a while. Examples of this are: pulling some weeds in the backyard for a few minutes and then getting back to, say, writing a blog post; or doing several loads of laundry throughout the day. The point here is to not be doing one type of activity for more than a couple of hours without switching it up to a different activity.
Take a pause
A similar concept to mixing it up but slightly more intentional. In this case, think of counter-movements to complement the initial movement. It sounds kind of confusing, so I’ll explain.
Let’s say I have a big day of computer work ahead of me, and I already know that my body will likely be pretty ticked if I stay at my desk for a long period of time. Using the principle above, I’ll plan on taking an afternoon break to go out into my yard and pull some weeds for like 20 minutes. This gets me up and out of my chair, into the fresh air, and has my body doing various movements that are different from sitting down.
However, I know my body, so I know that it’s likely to be a bit cranky after doing that yard work, which is why I’ll be limiting the amount of time I’ll spend pulling weeds, as well as why I’ll plan on sitting back down at my desk to work afterward. But I’m sure to pause in between both activities.
Before I even leave my desk, I’d do some stretches to help my body prepare for the weed pulling. These might include seated twists, neck stretches, a forward fold – you get the idea.
Then, once I’ve finished pulling the weeds and am ready to get back to my desk, I’ll take a few minutes and stretch out again. This time I’d likely stretch while laying on the floor, holding each stretch for a bit longer, listening to my body’s guidance as I relaxed.
When we do a variety of movements throughout the day, including times of pausing to rest, our bodies reap the rewards. You’ll feel relaxed yet alert, calm and focused, strong yet peaceful. Do an honest assessment of where you’re at in the moment and then decide the best way to switch up your day.