Some of the happiest people on earth are Buddhist monks. They practice living in a different way than we do, and adopting their habits can have a positive effect on our own happiness.
Buddhism is an extremely mindful practice. They focus on living simply and rule out all materialistic complications. Buddhism has been becoming increasingly popular too. We are seeing more and more people in the eastern society adopting the ways of Buddhist monks because it offers answers and solutions to modern world problems. Buddhism additionally gives us another point of view on who we really are. They think very highly of the human spirit and they appreciate all walks of life.
If you are looking to get away from all the hustle and bustle complications of the modern day world, Buddhist practices may be your out. It makes living simplistic and more meaningful. Simply adopting these habits could change your entire life.
The first habit you should adopt is to simplify. Life is not even nearly as complicated as we make it out to be. All of the problems we have were created by us and they can also be eliminated. Most people’s goal is to acquire as much stuff as they can and be as wealthy as they can, but this does not guarantee happiness. Instead, happiness comes from within, so you have all you need.
Along with simplifying your life, you need to give too. Giving not only helps another human individual, but it makes us feel good too! Giving things away to help others actually releases dopamine in our brains, making us feel blissful. A selfless attitude is essential to live a Buddhist style life. Being selfless is about much more than giving to other people. If we are all selfless, we wouldn’t have so many problems. Let go of that ego and ask yourself what you can do to benefit society.
Meditating is also a key part of Buddhism. Simply sitting down in a quiet place for ten minutes and change your entire day for the better. It’s also scientifically proven to change the brain! All you have to do is sit down, focus on your breathing, and let it all be. Chanting mantras is also a great way to keep your mind on track while meditating.
Respect and Learn from your Elders
Another Buddhist habit that is life changing is listening to people wiser than you. We don’t know it all, and as easy as it is to pretend we do, you’ll actually get a lot more out of listening to others than you think. Listen to learn, not to reply.
Go Throughout Everyday Mindfully
You will additionally want to make mindfulness a key part of your life. Being mindful doesn’t mean you go around enlightening people and meditating all the time. Being mindful is taking the time to further your spiritual growth and knowledge. Being mindful means not judging other people, getting your happiness from a natural source, and growing spiritually.
Embracing change can also change your life. Change can be scary, but that doesn’t mean it is a bad thing. We are forever evolving and we change all the time. Embracing it will only make it easier for you! There is so much more to focus on in life than holding onto what we used to have.
Monks practice aromatherapy a good bit too. Aromatherapy using essential oils has massive amounts of benefits. Depending on the specific oil you use, they can treat health issues, promote sleep and relaxation, reduce stress, and promote creativity. It is awesome to breathe in the oil of frankincense while meditating.Live in the Moment
The most important habit that Buddhist monks have that we need to learn is living in the moment. The majority of our anger, frustration, anxiety, and sadness comes from anticipation of the future or dwelling on the past. If you can try hard enough, and it does require practice, you can live in the present only and doing so eliminates massive amounts of stress and negative emotions.
Almost every woman dreams of finding the perfect man who has all the qualities she requires him to have. However, it is not that easy to find one person who has everything that you want and need. Still you should not lose hope, instead start by learning the difference between boys and men.
Try to find a man who will speak his mind, has a sense of humor, who is not ashamed to show his love, and dresses and speaks well.
These are the qualities that a true gentleman should possess:
1.A true gentleman pays attention to his personal hygiene including trimming nose hairs and cleaning his nails.
2.This man has a strong character, a career and a personal life and is also sophisticated.
3.A gentleman does not wait for too long to call a woman. He calls her to invite her to dinner; he makes the reservations and has a great time.
4.A true gentleman tells a girl whether he is interested or not. In case he is not he always makes sure that she knows he had a great time with her. He appreciates her time and tells her that he is not interested in the relationship becoming more serious.
5.This man reads lots of books and newspapers; he is well informed and has his own opinion about everything. He knows that not everything he reads or hears is a fact so he values the opinion of someone who disagrees with him. He even enjoys engaging in a good debate.
6.The real man is a true gentleman who shows a woman that he cares about her by opening the door for her or taking her coat.
7.He values the woman so if he wants to have a sexual relation he first seduces her instead of forcing her into doing something she does not want to. He is well aware that he should firs conquer other parts of the woman body.
8.Even though he enjoys knowing that a woman likes him he does not want to be chased, instead he prefers to be the one in charge in courting.
9.He loves an independent woman who is financially stable to pay for her own bills and expenses. This type of woman is the one he wants beside him.
10.He a woman who will love him for his character and personality rather than his financial status.
11.This man prefers a woman who shares the same qualities he has such as having a career hobby, family and close friends.
12.He knows who he is, what he wants and what he does not. He appreciates honesty very much and believes that if he can be honest with himself he can be honest with others too.
13.He is very proud of the woman he is with and is not afraid to show it through the way he looks or acts.
14.A gentleman is a man, not a boy. He wants to find the perfect woman for him not a girl. He tries to find the woman who shares the same qualities with him but also has something to teach him. He will not settle for anything, he takes his time searching for the right woman and once he finds her he will fight for her. And when the woman finds the man with the right qualities she should be happy about having someone like that by her side.
A relaxing soak could be doing more for you than you think.
If you were about to force yourself out on a run, stop where you are for a minute because a bath might be just as effective as exercise when it comes to your health.
Dr. Steve Faulkner, a researcher at Loughborough University, says bathing may have similar benefits to exercising, including helping to prevent type 2 diabetes.
He explained to The Conversationthat, though a hot bath has always been relaxing, it’s only recently that science has begun to discover how “passive heating” can improve health.
Dr. Faulkner and his team have investigated the effect of a hot bath on blood sugar control and the number of calories burned. The study involved 14 people each enjoying an hour-long soak in a bath run at 104 degrees Fahrenheit, as well as heading out on an hour-long bike ride.
The two tests were designed to raise core body temperature by just 1 degree so the team could measure how many calories were burned in each session.
Though biking did burn more calories, they found that a hot bath used up as many calories as a 30-minute walk.
“The overall blood sugar response to both conditions was similar, but peak blood sugar after eating was about 10% lower when participants took a hot bath compared with when they exercised,” Dr. Faulkner reports.
He also explained that the anti-inflammatory properties of exercise are important for our immune systems and help us fight diseases: “This suggests that repeated passive heating may contribute to reducing chronic inflammation, which is often present with long-term diseases, such as type 2 diabetes.”
So, take off those sneakers — in fact, take off everything and head upstairs.
People are more aware of their health than ever. It’s good to know that people care about their own bodies, and of course, the way they look.
Some decide to go for pricey gym memberships, “miracle” supplements, and fancy equipment. Others go for the easy way – exercising and healthy diet. Guess who is doing it better.
Eating healthy and being physically active make you happy. There’s nothing better than healthy habits.
We give you 5 simple exercises, and this go along with your diet. You’ll notice major improvement within a month. You won’t lose weight like crazy, but you will sure get closer to the body of your dreams.
It’s one of the most effective, and yet most underrated exercises ever. This static exercise will give you those ripped abs, and tough shoulders. Take a push-up position on the ground, and bend your elbows at 90 degrees.
Set your body in a straight line, and support it with your elbows, forefeet, and forearms. Hold in this position as much as you can, and make sure you don’t move your butt and waist at all.
These will push up your body, as they involve every muscle in your body. Set your body in a plank position, and push your body up using your hands. Set your back, butt, and legs in a straight line. Do several repetitions.
These will strengthen your core, stimulate a healthy fat burning process, and build strong quads, calves, and hams.
Set your body in the initial squat position. Stretch your arms forward, and start off. Do it slowly. Make sure your face is faced forward, and your spine straight. Get as lower as you can. Your hips should be in a parallel line to the ground, but don’t force yourself if you’re unable to do this.
Set your body in a plank position, and support your body on your hands and knees. Stretch one leg and one arm, on the opposite side, of course. Your body should be balanced and straight. Hold in this position for a few seconds. Switch arm/leg. The bird-dog exercise strengthens your lower back and abs.
Lying hip raises
These will strengthen your hamstrings and glute muscles, thighs, back and abs. lie flat on the ground, bend your knees, and set your feet on the floor. Stretch your arms towards the outside at a 45 degree angle. “Squeeze” your glute muscles, and raise your hips. Do several repetitions.
Try this 4-week exercise plan:
It’s an amazing plan consisted of 2 different basic workouts:
Plank – 1 minute;
Push-ups – 1 minute;
Squats – 2 minutes;
Bird-dog – 1 minute;
Lying hip raises – 1 minute;
Plank – 1 minute;
Push-ups – 1 minute;
Squats – 2 minutes
Make 10-second breaks in between.
Plank – 3 minutes;
Bird-dog – 3 minutes;
Lying hip raises – 3 minutes;
Push-ups – 1 minute
Make 15-second breaks in between.
As you may notice, you should have a rest day after the 6-day workout plan.
1stDay – 1st Workout
2ndDay – 2nd Workout
3rdDay – 1st Workout
4thDay – 2nd Workout
5thDay – 1st Workout
6thDay – 2nd Workout
7thDay – rest
1stDay – 2nd Workout
2ndDay – 1st Workout
3rdDay – 2nd Workout
4thDay – 1st Workout
5thDay – 2nd Workout
6thDay – 1st Workout
7thDay – rest
After you finish your second week, start it all over again.
This program will give you a strong and tight body, and you’ll be healthier than ever. Give it a try, you’ve got nothing to lose.
Doing this program will not only make your body stronger and tighter, but it will also improve your health and energy levels. You have nothing to lose trying this program, so you might start it even today.
It seems like the world is awash in scents of all kinds, from simple perfumes to scented candles, laundry products and personal hygiene items. Even many hotel rooms and taxis are beginning to come with a “signature” scent — all to the detriment of people with allergies or who simply don’t like the scents. According to Time Health, the problem is so severe that many people suffer migraines and breathing problems from this new scent-laced world.
A study published in 2011 found over 25 different air pollutants, including those known to cause cancer, such as benzene and acetaldehyde, in the chemicals released by dryer sheets and fabric softeners. From chloroform to benzyl acetate to ethanol and more, several known carcinogenic compounds were found to be wafting from common household cleaning products.
In Europe, more than 1,300 chemicals are banned from use in lotions, soaps, toothpaste, cosmetics and other personal care products. Contrast that to in the U.S., where just 11 are banned — which means that if you live in the U.S. you’re on your own for protecting yourself from the onslaught. You can do this by “going green” all the way and refusing to purchase scented products, and switching over to organic brands of toiletries such as shampoo, toothpaste, antiperspirants and cosmetics.
Exercise is a key factor of optimal health; it’s particularly important for controlling your blood sugar and normalizing your insulin levels. I often recommend viewing exercise as a drug that needs to be properly prescribed and “taken” at a proper dosage.
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Exercise is a key factor of optimal health; it’s particularly important for controlling your blood sugar and normalizing your insulin levels. When done correctly, exercise can oftentimes act as a substitute for some of the most common drugs used today for things like diabetes, heart disease and depression
Compelling and ever-mounting research shows that the ideal form of exercise is short bursts of high intensity exercise
Not only does it beat conventional cardio as the most effective and efficient form of exercise, Peak Fitness exercises also provide health benefits you simply cannot get from regular aerobics, such as a tremendous boost in human growth hormone (HGH), aka the “fitness hormone”
A recent article by the Human Performance Institute shows how you can fulfill the requirements for a high intensity exercise using nothing more than your own body weight, a chair, and a wall
When done correctly, exercise can oftentimes act as a substitute for some of the most common drugs used today for things like diabetes, heart disease and depression.
All of these conditions will improve with exercise and the help of an experienced natural health care clinician. High intensity interval training (HIIT), which is a core component of my Peak Fitness program, is key for reaping optimal results from exercise.
There are many versions of HIIT, but the core premise involves maximum exertion followed by a quick rest period for a set of intervals.
My Peak Fitness routine uses a set of eight 30-second sprints, each followed by 90 seconds of recovery, as taught by Phil Campbell who is a pioneer in this field. Also, while I typically recommend using an elliptical machine or recumbent bike, you can just as easily perform a high intensity routine without any equipment at all.
The Scientific 7-Minute Workout
A recent article in the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health & Fitness Journal1 shows how you can fulfill the requirements for a high intensity exercise using nothing more than your own body weight, a chair, and a wall.
Best of all, this science-backed routine only requires a seven minute investment, as the program calls for as little as 10- to 15-seconds of rest between each 30-second exercise, which should be performed in rapid succession.
“’There’s very good evidence that high-intensity interval training provides “many of the fitness benefits of prolonged endurance training but in much less time,’ says Chris Jordan, the director of exercise physiology at the Human Performance Institute in Orlando, Fla., and co-author of the new article.”
The health benefits of high intensity interval training are well-established at this point, and include:
Significantly improving your insulin sensitivity, especially if you’re on a low-processed food, low-sugar/low-grain diet
Optimizing your cholesterol ratios, when combined with a proper diet
Boosting fat metabolism and optimizing your body fat percentage (as a result of improved conservation of sugar and glycogen in your muscles)
Virtually eliminating type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure
Naturally boosting your levels of human growth hormone (HGH)
Increasing your aerobic capacity
One of the added boons of this 7-minute program is that since you don’t need any equipment, you can easily take this routine with you when traveling. You’d be hard-pressed to find a hotel room that doesn’t at least have a chair in it. When done at the appropriate intensity, which should hover around 8 on a scale of 1-10, the following 12 exercises, which are outlined in the report, equate to doing a long run and a weight-training session.
The exercises are ideally done in the following order, as this allows for opposing muscle groups to alternate between resting and working in each subsequent exercise.
I believe most people can perform high intensity exercises, provided you listen to your body and work out according to your current level of fitness and ability. I personally modified the Peak 8 to a Peak 6 this year as it was sometimes just too strenuous for me to do all eight repetitions. So by listening to my body and cutting it back to six reps, I can now easily tolerate the workout and go all out. That said, the authors stress that there are some contraindications for their program:
“Because of the elevated demand for exercise intensity in high intensity circuit training protocols, caution should be taken when prescribing this protocol to individuals who are overweight/obese, detrained, previously injured, or elderly or for individuals with comorbidities.
For individuals with hypertension or heart disease, the isometric exercises (wall sit, plank, and side plank) are not recommended. The isometric exercises can be substituted with dynamic exercises.
For all individuals, the Valsalva maneuver should be avoided, particularly for the isometric exercises. Proper execution requires a willing and able participant who can handle a great degree of discomfort for a relatively short duration. It is also essential that participants in an HICT understand proper exercise form and technique. As with all exercise programs, prior medical clearance from a physician is recommended.”
I firmly believe that most people would benefit from high intensity exercises but the key is to start very slowly if you have any of the risk factors listed above. You might actually require several months to work up to a high intensity level. But as long as you start at a safe level and continue to push yourself to progressively higher levels, you will eventually reach a level of intensity that will provide the benefits.
Remember, while your body needs regular amounts of stress like exercise to stay healthy, if you give it more than you can handle your health can actually deteriorate. So it’s crucial to listen to your body and integrate the feedback into your exercise intensity and frequency. When you work out, it is wise to really push as hard as you possibly can a few times a week, but you do need to wisely gauge your body’s tolerance to this stress.
Why High Intensity Interval Training May Be Ideal for Most
Contrary to popular belief, extended extreme cardio, such as marathon running, actually sets in motion inflammatory mechanisms that damage your heart. So while your heart is indeed designed to work very hard, and will be strengthened from doing so, it’s only designed to do so intermittently, and for short periods—not for an hour or more at a time. This is the natural body mechanics you tap into when you perform HIIT.
Repeatedly and consistently overwhelming your heart by long distance marathon running, for example, can actually prematurely age your heart and make you more vulnerable to irregular heart rhythm. This is why you sometimes hear of seasoned endurance athletes dropping dead from cardiac arrest during a race. I ran long distance for over four decades. So please learn from my experience and don’t make the same mistake I did.
Compelling and ever-mounting research shows that the ideal form of exercise is short bursts of high intensity exercise. Not only does it beat conventional cardio as the most effective and efficient form of exercise, it also provides health benefits you simply cannot get from regular aerobics, such as a tremendous boost in human growth hormone (HGH), aka the “fitness hormone.”
What Makes HIIT so Effective?
Your body has three types of muscle fibers: slow, fast, and super-fast twitch muscles. Slow twitch muscles are the red muscles, which are activated by traditional strength training and cardio exercises. The latter two (fast and super-fast) are white muscle fibers, and these are only activated during high intensity interval exercises or sprints. The benefit of activating these fibers is that they will produce therapeutic levels of growth hormone, which many athletes spend over a $1,000 a month to inject themselves with. So there is no need to pay the money or take the risks when your body can produce growth hormone naturally through high intensity exercises.
Getting cardiovascular benefits requires working all three types of muscle fibers and their associated energy systems — and this cannot be done with traditional cardio, which only activates your red, slow twitch muscles. If your fitness routine doesn’t work your white muscle, you aren’t really working your heart in the most beneficial way. The reason for this is because your heart has two different metabolic processes:
The aerobic, which requires oxygen for fuel, and
The anaerobic, which does not require any oxygen
Traditional strength training and cardio exercises work primarily the aerobic process, while high intensity interval exercises work both your aerobic AND your anaerobic processes, which is what you need for optimal cardiovascular benefit. This is why you may not see the results you desire even when you’re spending an hour on the treadmill several times a week. So when it comes to high intensity exercises, less really is more...
For Optimal Health, Add Variety to Your Exercise Program
In addition to doing HIIT a couple of times a week, it’s wise to alternate a wide variety of exercises in order to truly optimize your health and avoid hitting a plateau. As a general rule, as soon as an exercise becomes easy to complete, you need to increase the intensity and/or try another exercise to keep challenging your body. I recommend incorporating the following types of exercise into your program on days when you’re not doing high intensity anaerobic training:
Strength Training: If you want, you can increase the intensity by slowing it down. You need enough repetitions to exhaust your muscles. The weight should be heavy enough that this can be done in fewer than 12 repetitions, yet light enough to do a minimum of four repetitions. It is also important NOT to exercise the same muscle groups every day. They need at least two days of rest to recover, repair and rebuild.
For more information about using super slow weight training as a form of high-intensity interval exercise, please see my interview with Dr. Doug McGuff.
Core Exercises: Your body has 29 core muscles located mostly in your back, abdomen and pelvis. This group of muscles provides the foundation for movement throughout your entire body, and strengthening them can help protect and support your back, make your spine and body less prone to injury and help you gain greater balance and stability.
Exercise programs like Pilates, yoga, and Foundation Training are great for strengthening your core muscles, as are specific exercises you can learn from a personal trainer.
Stretching: My favorite type of stretching is Active Isolated Stretching (AIS) developed by Aaron Mattes. With AIS, you hold each stretch for only two seconds, which works with your body’s natural physiological makeup to improve circulation and increase the elasticity of muscle joints. This technique also allows your body to repair itself and prepare for daily activity. You can also use devices like the Power Plate to help you stretch.
Over 50 percent of American men, and 60 percent of American women, never engage in any vigorous physical activity lasting more than 10 minutes per week.1 This despite a growing body of research clearly showing that “exercise deficiency” threatens your overall health and mental well-being, and shortens your lifespan.
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Even if you are a fit athlete who exercises regularly, you may still endanger your health simply by sitting too much
Researchers warn that the combination of sitting too much and exercising too little can more than double the risk of heart failure in men. These risk correlations held true no matter how much they exercised
The act of standing up from a seated position has been found particularly effective at counteracting the detrimental health effects of sitting
Based on double-blind research, the minimum number of times you need to interrupt your sitting in order to counteract its cardiovascular health risks is around 35 times per day
There are plenty of ways to get movement in during your work hours. Included are tips from several sources, including video demonstrations of a sample at-work exercises you can do every 15 minutes or so.
That said, even if you fall into the other half of the population that exercises or are even a highly competitive and fit athlete, you may still endanger your health simply by sitting too much.
For example, one 2012 analysis2 that looked at the findings from 18 studies found that those who sat for the longest periods of time were twice as likely to have diabetes or heart disease, compared to those who sat the least.
Worse yet, it appears that temporary vigorous exercise can’t even compensate for the damage incurred by prolonged daily sitting!
In fact, it’s becoming increasingly clear that staying active—and by that I mean engaging in virtually any physical movement—as much as possible, throughout the day, is critical for health and longevity. It even appears to be more important, in the big scheme of things, than a regularly scheduled fitness routine…
Sitting Down Too Much Raises Your Risk of Heart Failure
Besides increasing your risk of metabolic problems, researchers warn that the combination of sitting too much and exercising too little can more than double the risk of heart failure in men.3,4 As reported by USA Today:5
“The risk of heart failure was more than double for men who sat for at least five hours a day outside of work and didn’t exercise very much compared with men who were physically active and sat for less than two hours a day… The risk was lowest for men who exercised the most and sat for fewer than two hours a day…
Government statistics show almost half of people report sitting more than six hours a day, and 65 percent say they spend more than two hours a day watching TV. ‘If you’ve been sitting for an hour, you’ve been sitting too long,’ says James Levine, co-director of Obesity Solutions at Mayo Clinic in Phoenix and Arizona State University.”
This study6 also confirms the alarming findings of earlier ones, which is that a regular fitness routine does NOT counteract the effects of prolonged sitting. The study—which followed more than 82,000 men for 10 years—found that these risk correlations held true no matter how much they exercised!
Last summer, I interviewed Dr. Joan Vernikos,7 former director of NASA’s Life Sciences Division and author of Sitting Kills, Moving Heals, about the hazards of chronic sitting, and how to avoid succumbing to its ill effects. Her research has revealed there’s a simple answer.
The key is to make sure you move your body frequently throughout the day. The act of standing up from a seated position has been found particularly effective at counteracting the detrimental health effects of sitting.
I firmly believe that a reasonable goal is to get up four times every hour or every 15 minutes while you are sitting. Once you are engaged in a project, it is really difficult to remember to do this so an alarm might be helpful.
I personally use XNote timer that can be downloaded for free. Once you download the program you can go to the “More” section at the bottom of the program and click “Always On Top” so the application doesn’t get buried on your computer.
You should then click on “Timer” and set it to 15 minutes. You may then click “Start” and when the timer goes off there will not be an alarm sounded, but a flash will appear on your screen to remind you to stand up and perform the exercises.
Like everything in life it is a matter of making choices. I spend 8-12 hours a day in front of a computer . There are certainly times when I am in the flow and choose not to stand up but for the most part that is a rare occasion.
I welcome the interruption and delight in the fact knowing that I am giving my body a break from the abuse of constant sitting and I love it when I move and feel my joints crack and get more flexibility as I know this habit of providing motion to my body will let me function pain free for decades to come.
At-Work ‘Workouts’ — A Practical Health Intervention
The easiest and simplest strategy is to merely stand up, and then sit back down. But the evidence suggests you’d be wise to go a little further—especially if you only exercise a few times a week, or not at all. There are plenty of ways to get movement in during your work hours. The following videos, featuring Jill Rodriguez, offer a series of helpful intermittent movement beginner exercises you can do right at your desk. For a demonstration of each technique, please see the corresponding video in the table below. I suggest taking a break to do one set of three exercises, anywhere from once every 15 minutes, to once per hour.
Technique #1: Standing Neck-Stretch: Hold for 20 seconds on each side.
Technique #2: Shoulder Blade Squeeze: Round your shoulders, then pull them back and pull down. Repeat for 20-30 seconds.
Technique #3: Standing Hip Stretch: Holding on to your desk, cross your left leg over your right thigh and “sit down” by bending your right leg. Repeat on the other side.
Technique #4: The Windmill: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, then pivot your feet to the right. Push your hip out to the left. Raising your left arm skyward, and your right arm toward the floor, lower your body toward the floor while looking up, then raise your torso back to standing position. Repeat on the other side.
Technique #5: Side Lunge: Starting with your feet together, take a medium step sideways, and bend down as if you’re about to sit. Use your arms for balance by reaching out in front of you. Return to starting position, and repeat 10-20 times. Repeat on the other side.
Technique #6: Desk Push-Up: Place hand a little wider than shoulder-width apart on your desk. Come up on your toes to make it easier to tip forward. Do 10 repetitions.
Technique #7: Squat to Chair: With your feet shoulder-width apart, sit down, reaching forward with your hands, and stand back up in quick succession. Do 15-20 repetitions.
Technique #8: Single Leg Dead Lift: Place your right hand on your desk, and place your weight on your right leg. Fold your torso forward, while simultaneously lifting your left leg backward. Do 10 repetitions on each side.
Technique #9: Mountain Climber: Get into a push-up position on the floor. Pull your right knee forward to touch your right wrist or arm, then return to push-up position. Repeat on the other side. Try to pick up the pace, and do 20 quick repetitions.
Standing Neck Stretch
Shoulder Blade Squeezes
Standing/Seated Hip Stretch
Squat to Chair
Single Leg Dead Lift
Advanced Intermittent Movement Routine
The video below from Dr. Eric Goodman is just over 4 minutes, but you can break it up into 30-60 second sections and perform it on one of your breaks.
Below are some more advanced suggestions from fitness expert Lisa Huck. These movements are the ones I’m currently working with to interrupt my sitting. I suggest bookmarking this article so you can easily find all of these helpful videos, demonstrating each movement. Again, ideally you’ll want to do at least one of these exercises every 15 minutes. Alternatively, you can combine two or three in a three-minute break once or twice every hour.The more frequently you get out of your seat, the better, because the frequency is the most important aspect. Based on double-blind research conducted by Dr. Vernikos, the minimum number of times you need to interrupt your sitting in order to counteract its cardiovascular health risks is in the neighborhood of 35 times per day.
Her research clearly shows that sitting down and standing up repeatedly for 35 minutes does NOT have the same effect as standing up once, 35 times over the course of the entire day. In order to be effective, the activity needs to be spread out. This helps explain why vigorously exercising a few times a week still isn’t enough to counteract the ill effects of daily prolonged sitting.
#1: Standing Hip Flexor Stretch
#2: Standing Calf Stretch
#3: Standing Inner Thigh Stretch
#4: Standing Back/Buttocks Stretch
#5: Kneeling Lunge Matrix
#6: Hip Flexor, Hamstring, and Quad Stretch
#7: Side Line Twisting Back Stretch
#8: Chest Stretch
#9: Back Butt Stretch
#10: Pole Stretch for the Back
Standing Hip Flexor Stretch
Standing Calf Stretch
Standing Inner Thigh Stretch
Standing Back/Buttocks Stretch
Kneeling Lunge Matrix
Hip Flexor, Hamstring, and Quad Stretch
Side Line Twisting Back Stretch
Back Butt Stretch
Pole Stretch for the Back
For even more suggestions, check out the following articles. The videos in the table below, featuring Michael Volkin, can also be used as a guide:
Huffington Post: “10 Easy At-Work Workouts”.8 This HP article has many excellent suggestions for movements you can do just about anywhere, anytime, even while still sitting. For example, you can perform leg extensions while remaining seated. Or, keeping your back erect, lift your knees above the chair, squeezing your abdominal muscles, and hold for as long as you can.
Washington Post: “A Workout At Work?”9 12 Movements suggested by experts in body mechanics include marching triceps kicks, standing hamstring curls, knee lifts, desk pushups, side lunges, and more. This article includes animated graphics demonstrating each easy move.
Greatist.com: “33 Ways To Exercise At Work”.10 This list of “deskercises” is chockfull of great ideas. From wall sitting while reading, and calf-raises while standing at the printer, to discreet isometric glutes exercises like the buttock-squeeze that can be done anytime, you’re bound to find several to fit into your daily work routine.
The Atlantic: “Workouts To Do At Work” (video).11 In an effort to bring some measure of “cool factor” to at-work workouts, Atlantic editor James Hamblin offers up an array of suggestions in this humor-filled video. As he says, while stationary jogging may raise some eyebrows, taking the stairs is always an option.
One Leg Triple Jumps
Single Leg Squats
What Is It About Sitting That Makes It So Harmful?
Space medicine has done a lot to help us understand why sitting is so detrimental. Dr. Vernikos was in fact one of the primary doctors assigned to keep NASA astronauts from deteriorating in space. In a previous interview, she explains that the human body deteriorates at a faster speed in anti-gravity situations, and, as it turns out, sitting for an extended period of time actually simulates a low-gravity type environment!
Physical movements such as standing up or bending down, on the other hand, increase the force of gravity on your body. Again, anti-gravity environments speed up cellular deterioration, so the key is to disengage from this low anti-gravity situation as much as possible by standing up and moving about.
The problem is that our modern society and our reliance on technology has reduced or eliminated many of these opportunities for low-intensity intermittent movement and replaced it with chronic sitting, typically staring in one direction. Some people have even taken to texting 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 and can take years off your life by speeding up cellular deterioration.
Another Key: When You Do Sit, Use Proper Sitting Form
Other factors come into play as well of course, such as poor posture, which can affect the function of your internal organs, and the lack of blood circulation that results from lack of movement and poor sitting form. I’m convinced that, in addition to getting out of your chair frequently enough, maintaining proper posture while sitting can also make a significant difference. As posture expert Esther Gokhale, creator of the Gokhale Method, explains:
“In our stack sitting method (which is really healthy sitting, primal sitting, if you will), you have your behind out behind, but not exaggeratedly. That’s very important. Then your bones stack well and the muscles alongside your spine are able to relax… Now when you breathe, your whole spine lengthens and settles, lengthens and settles. There’s this movement which stimulates circulation and allows natural healing to be going on as you sit.
If you sit poorly, whether relaxed and slumped or upright and tense, you’ve lost all of that. So do we want to blame [all the adverse health effects] on sitting, or do we want to blame it on the poor sitting form? That’s my question.”
To learn more about proper posture, and how to sit properly, please see my interview with Esther (Gokhale Method hyperlinked above), in which you’ll also find video demonstrations of healthy stack sitting techniques. Using proper posture while seated, combined with frequent interruptions where you stand up and, ideally, perform some of the intermittent movement exercises suggested above, can go a long way toward counteracting the ill effects associated with sitting.
What Are Your Recommendations?
If this is a topic that interests you half as much as it does me, I would encourage you to bookmark this page and play with the concept. I’ve only been experimenting with this approach for about half a year and am in constant revision mode.
There are loads of exercises that one can do in one to two minutes that would serve to interrupt the sitting that causes damage. So if you find one you really like, please create a video of it; upload the video to YouTube, and then post your link in the comments below. We will review all the entries and add exercises to the videos above that we feel would serve to help you avoid the damage caused by chronic sitting.
Pullups are an excellent exercise for strengthening your back, shoulders, chest and arms, improving posture and building grip strength
Pullups help build your core strength and are an ideal form of functional movement, which can help reduce your risk of injuries and falls while helping you to maintain independence as you get older
If you’re a beginner, try doing pullups using a chair or superband for assistance; for more challenge, add a weighted belt
Pullups are one of the most straightforward exercises — pull your body up to a bar and then lower yourself back down. If you’ve ever tried to do one, however, you know that their straightforwardness is exceeded by their intensity. It takes strength, both physical and mental, to perform pullups.
Some have even called them the “toughest exercise ever.” Although they’re tough, and may still evoke a feeling of dread if you were among those forced to do them in gym class, there’s good reason to include pullups in your weekly exercise routine. Your hard work will reap bountiful rewards.
Benefits of Pullups
Pullups are infamous for building and strengthening your upper body, but this is only one of their claims to fame.
Jacque Crockford, an American Council on Exercise (ACE) certified personal trainer and certified strength and conditioning specialist noted, “Because performing the pullup involves moving the entirety of your own bodyweight up against gravity, it takes incredible upper-body strength and trunk stability.”1
Your back muscles are also involved, and pullups are an excellent tool for strengthening and elongating those muscles. If you do pullups regularly, you may find that your posture begins to improve.
As a multi-joint, dynamic and compound movement, pullups work many muscles all at once. This includes the muscles of your back, shoulders, chest and arms, including:2
✓ Middle and lower trapezius
✓ Pectoralis major and minor
✓ Teres major
✓ Biceps brachii
✓ Flexor carpi radialis
✓ Flexor carpi ulnaris
✓ Palmaris longus
✓ Flexor digitorum profundus
✓ Flexor digitorum superficialis
✓ Flexor pollicis longus
✓ External oblique
✓ Erector spinae
In addition, the pullup is an exercise that builds the muscle mass of your latissimus dorsi, which is the broad back muscle that runs from the back of your shoulder to your lower back (the primary muscle responsible for that coveted V-shaped look).
Pullups are a classic bodyweight exercise, which means your own body provides the resistance. Such exercises are ideal because they don’t require excessive equipment (although a pullup bar is necessary for pullups) and can be customized to your current skill and fitness level.
Meanwhile, pullups will help build your core strength and are an ideal form of functional movement, which can help reduce your risk of injuries and falls while helping you to maintain independence as you get older. In addition, pullups build grip strength because your fingers, hands and forearms are all used.
Are Pullups Harder for Women and Tall People?
There is some debate over whether certain uncontrollable factors, like your sex or height, influence your ability to do a pullup.
In one study by researchers from the University of Dayton, women were trained for three months to specifically strengthen their biceps and latissimus dorsi, which should theoretically help them successfully do pullups.
The women increased their upper-body strength by 36 percent during the course of the study while lowering their body fat by 2 percent (which should also make pullups more feasible). Still, when tested, only 4 of the 17 women could perform a single pullup.3
The researchers suggested there’s more to performing pullups than simple upper-body strength. “Men and women who can do them tend to have a combination of strength, low body fat and shorter stature,” The New York Times reported.4
Men may have an easier time performing pullups than women because they tend to have lower body fat percentages and higher muscle mass.
Some men, particularly those who are tall and have longer arms, may also struggle with this exercise, Paul Vanderburgh, a professor of exercise physiology and associate provost at the University of Dayton, told the Times.
“We’re a combination of levers; that’s how we move … Generally speaking, the longer the limb, the more of a disadvantage in being able to do a pullup,” he said.5
That being said, both women and men of all shapes and sizes can absolutely do pullups, but it will take time to build up the strength and technique to do so. This isn’t a bad thing, as you’ll benefit immensely during the learning curve as well.
Proper Pullup Form
Before attempting pullups, be sure you’re aware of the proper form, as demonstrated in the video above.
Place your hands on the pullup bar, palms facing forward, slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Keep your legs slightly bent and your knees together.
Focus on your latissimus dorsi, your back muscle, and feel the contraction as you’re pulling yourself upward. It’s not necessary to get your chin over the bar.
As you pull up, open up your posture by pushing your stomach forward and keeping your sternum high. (Visualizing pulling your elbows down through the floor can help you feel your back muscles more.)
Pull up to a slow count of three, pause while squeezing your back muscles, then come down to a slow count of three.
Between reps, let yourself hang while looking down and relaxing, to allow the latissimus dorsi to pull away from your scapula.
Make sure all your movements are slow and controlled.
Pullups From Beginner to Advanced
If you’ve never done a pullup before, you’ll need to gradually work your way up to completing this challenging exercise. Below are examples of techniques you can use to do so whether you’re a beginner, intermediate or advanced.6
Assisted Pullup Machine: This machine works via counterbalance weights that assist your pullups. The higher you set the weight, the easier the pullup will be.
Band Pullup: A superband is basically a giant rubber band that you wrap around the pullup bar with the other end under your knee or foot. The band gives you a boost that makes the pullup easier and allows you to gradually build up your strength.
Chair Pullup: Place your pullup bar 3 to 4 feet off the ground. While sitting in a chair, grab the bar, then straighten your back and hips while keeping your knees slightly bent with feet on the floor. Then pull yourself up so that your chest touches the bar.
Jump Pullups: This move involves holding on to the pullup bar and then getting a jump start. The jump propels you upward, which allows you to harness the momentum to assist in completing the pullup.
Vary Grip Positions: Traditional pullups involve a palm forward-facing grip. To vary your grip position, you can either turn your palms facing toward you (this variation is typically called a chin-up) or move your hands closer together or farther apart on the bar.
You can also try stopping your pullup midway through the move instead of pulling all the way up. All of these variations induce muscle confusion, which helps to build muscle and burn fat.
Traditional Pullup: This is the pullup demonstrated above.
Weighted Pullup: If you need more of a challenge, add a weight belt or hold a weight between your knees while you do your pullups.
Rotating Handles: You can kick the intensity up a notch further by trading your pullup bar for a set of rotating handles. Research suggests that using rotating handles during pullups results in the greatest activation of the latissimus dorsi, even more so than varying grip widths.7
No Pullup Bar? Try These Three Pullup Alternatives
If there were a downside to pullups, it would be that they require some way to pull yourself up. While you can find pullup bars at gyms or purchase one for your home (including door-mounted options), not everyone has access to a pullup bar when they need it.
You can still target many of the same muscles using items you probably already have at home, like a chair, towel and door. Even if you have access to a pullup bar, you may want to mix up your workouts by alternating in these challenging pullup alternatives:8
Table Bodyweight Row: Using a sturdy table and chair, grab the edge of the table with an underhanded grip, while placing your feet on a chair placed about four feet away (you will be in a horizontal position facing upward toward the table). Pull up with your arms as though you’re trying to touch your chest to the bottom of the table.
Door Pullins: With the door open, wrap a towel around the inner and outer doorknobs so you have the loose ends of the towel to hold. Position your feet on either side of the door, lower yourself away from the door using your upper body strength and then slowly pull yourself back up to starting position. You can also try this with just one arm at a time (hold both ends of the towel with one hand).
Biceps Plank: Get into a plank position, but turn your hands to point toward your feet. Shift your body forward until your hands are under your hips. Keep your body straight and you’ll feel this exercise in your biceps.
Dr. Levine is co-director of the Obesity Initiative for Mayo Clinic/Arizona State University, and he’s also the inventor of the treadmill desk. His book is quite an interesting read. It reminds me of the similar paths I went through in my journey to help people understand new paradigms of health.
Like any novel concept, there’s resistance from the existing paradigm to change, accept, and embrace that which is new. And Dr. Levine has certainly suffered the slings and arrows of being on the cutting edge of a new paradigm.
But it’s a phenomenal story, and I for one am now absolutely convinced that sitting is in and of itself a root problem of many of our chronic health problems. As Dr. Levine says: “Because we’ve become so used to being seated… we’ve failed to realize that this is a major health concern.”
Now that I know the serious damage that sitting can do, I am really perplexed at how I missed such an important health principle for the first 60 years of my life. It seems a really foolish mistake and one that I hope you will not repeat.
Slings and Arrows…
In one of his early speeches, he presented compelling data showing that people prone to weight gain and obesity are those who stay seated for two and a quarter hours longer each day than those who go to the gym and happen to be lean.
The insinuation that sitting was independently harmful, and harmful enough to kill, was so unpopular that his peers sent letters to senior faculty at the Mayo Clinic suggesting he was psychiatrically ill, and he was required to be evaluated by a psychiatrist.
Since then, some 10,000 publications have shown that, indeed, sitting is harmful to your health, irrespective of other lifestyle habits, including an excellent exercise program.
“I will tell you… when your world is that of the intellect, of the mind, and of science, when your senior colleagues have you sent to a psychiatrist because they think you’re insane, that really does make you pause,” he says.
“That makes you wonder first of all, is this all worth it? Is this mandate of wanting to bring health to hundreds of thousands or millions of people, is it worth the personal toll?
Is it worth going to the point where you’re so questioned that you wonder whether you can actually exist in the circle of normal world at all? It pushed me back. It pushed me back a lot.
But then at the end of the day… you got to say, ‘What is right for the patient? What is right for the next generation? What is right for the kids of my kids?’ Once I actually woke up to that, the rest is history.”
The simple truth is that sitting is affecting the health of millions of Americans and millions of people in high- and middle-income countries around the world. This unlike other things, is something we can do something about.
And I wholeheartedly agree with Dr. Levine when he says that this is something we must act upon. Fortunately, the solution is simple: simply stand up! And avoid sitting down!
“My core cause is the patient who has been battling with obesity, who has been battling with type 2 diabetes, and who doesn’t go to the gym for various reasons: a) they may not be able to afford it; b) they may not actually have access; c) they may have three jobs and do not have the time.
And fourth… many people who have excess weight feel looked upon badly and have bad feelings about themselves when they enter the hallowed territory of the gymnasium. The 75 percent of Americans – more in fact – who do not exercise regularly are my core cause,” Dr. Levine says.
An Exercise Regimen May Not Be Enough to Counteract Ill Effects of Prolonged Sitting
While it appears counterintuitive, it also turns out that regular exercise does not protect you from the hazards of prolonged sitting. For Dr. Levine, this was a rather upsetting discovery, as it was for me when I first learned this a few years ago.
It can be quite disconcerting to realize that even if you dutifully go to the gym several times a week and are really fit, it is still not enough to counteract the many hours you sit during the rest of your day…
“There are a couple of important points,” he says. “First of all, if you go to the gym, that does do you good. In fact, that is a phenomenal dose-response relationship. The more you do, the more benefit you get.
That does not, however, relinquish you from the responsibility of being active throughout the day or of realizing the opportunities to be active throughout the day.
What is interesting is that the molecular mechanisms that come into play when somebody sits for hours on end, if you think about it, are actually not reversed by allowing all of that sedentariness to occur and then having a bout of activity in the evening or even in the morning.
It’s the hours of inactivity that are associated with the molecular mechanisms at the cellular level that are associated with causality for diabetes, hypertension, and even potentially cancer and other deleterious effects.”
Why Sitting Causes So Much Harm, and Why Standing Promotes Physical Health
According to Dr. Levine, there are at least 24 different chronic diseases and conditions associated with excess sitting. How do we reconcile and explain how something so simple can have such a massive expanse of ill health consequence?
According to Dr. Levine, when you have been sitting for a long period of time and then get up, at a molecular level, within 90 seconds of getting off your bottom, the muscular and cellular systems that process blood sugar, triglycerides, and cholesterol—which are mediated by insulin—are activated.
As soon as you stand up, a series of molecular mechanisms at the cell level set off a cascade of activities that impact the cellular functioning of your muscles. The way your body handles blood sugar is beneficially impacted, for example. Therefore, the disease prevention for diabetes comes into play. All of these molecular effects are activated simply by weight-bearing; by carrying your bodyweight upon your legs. Those cellular mechanisms are also responsible for pushing fuels into your cells.
“It makes perfect sense,” Dr. Levine says. “If you’ve been resting after a hard morning’s work and then you get back on your legs in order to go back into the fields, of course, your whole body system is to be pushing what you’ve just had for lunch into your muscle, into your body so that you can function well in agricultural practice, which, up until 200 years ago, was what the human body ultimately functioned to do.
The nature of the human body was to be active and moving all day. The body was never designed to be crammed into a chair where all of these cellular mechanisms get switched off. Obviously we’re supposed to rest from time to time. But that rest is supposed to break up the activity. It’s not supposed to be the way of life. [T]his very unnatural [sitting] posture is not only bad for your back, your wrists, your arms, and your metabolism, but it actually switches off the fundamental fueling systems that integrate what’s going on in the bloodstream with what goes on in the muscles and in the tissues.
As a consequence of that, blood sugar levels are inappropriately high in people who sit. The blood pressure is inappropriately high, the cholesterol handling is inappropriately high, and those toxins, those growth factors that will potentially lead to cancer, particularly breast cancer, are elevated in those people who sit too much. The solution? Get up!”
Studies looking at life in natural agriculture environments show that people in agrarian villages sit for about three hours a day. The average American office worker can sit for 13 to 15 hours a day. The difference between a “natural” amount of sitting and modern, inappropriate amounts of sitting is huge. So, when trying to determine what the “minimum dose of standing” might be, it’s important to realize that most people are not dealing with a minor tweak… Most people need to figure out how to get out of their chair for several hours each day. But as a general guideline, to give you a starting point, Dr. Levine notes:
“The bottom-line is that if you’ve been sitting for an hour, you’ve been sitting for too long. We should all be up at least 10 minutes out of every hour.”
I’ve previously recommended standing up and doing some exercises at your desk every 10-15 minutes to counteract the ill effects of sitting, but after discussing the issue with Dr. Levine and reading his book, I’m convinced this isn’t even enough. I really think the answer is to stand up as much as possible. Standing for 10 minutes for every hour of sitting is really the bare bones minimum; it’s still far from ideal. It would seem far wiser to strive to sit as little as possible, certainly less than three hours a day.
My New Appreciation of the Damage Sitting Does
I’ve been passionate about exercising for nearly 50 years now and have been very fit for most of my life. But I’m still constantly modifying my exercise program based on new information. Several years ago, Phil Campbell helped me understand the importance of high intensity exercise and its value in increasing growth hormone. Then Dr. McGuff helped me understand that using Super Slow weight training may even be a superior form of high intensity training than high intensity cardio.
Now I have an important new modification: to sit as little as possible. I personally strive to sit less than an hour a day. Earlier this month, I went on a coast to coast 6,000-mile tour, from Virginia, to Maryland, Washington DC, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. During that time, I decided to try an experiment—to avoid sitting as much as I could… In my hotel room, I put the mini fridge on the desk to get a modified standing desk. In one room, I merely used the waste paper basket on top of the desk to create a makeshift standing desk.
I was able to reduce my normal 12 to 14 hours of daily sitting to under one hour. And I noticed one amazing thing: the back pain I’ve struggled with for many years, simply disappeared. It would normally start after I’d walk or stand for more than 30 minutes, but since I reduced my sitting the pain disappeared.
I had previously tried four different chiropractors, posture exercises, Foundation Training, ab work, inversion tables, standing up every 15 minutes to stretch, and strength training. But nothing would touch it, other than to radically reduce my sitting. During my coast to coast trip, I would have to sit on a plane for five hours and I noticed when I did that, the pain returned for a day. Clearly, my body was speaking to my very strongly that I needed to radically reduce my sitting. I am still surprised I missed this important health principle for so long.
Another recent epiphany I had is that most of us need to walk much more than we do. Thankfully, there are now fitness trackers that allow us to objectively record how much we walk and there will be a literal explosion of the use of these devices in the next few years. The Apple Watch being launched next year is a good example. Most of us need about 10,000 steps a day, which is a bit more than five miles (8-9 km). The key realization I had though is that this walking is in addition to, not in place of, your normal exercise program. It’s even better if you can walk barefoot so you can get grounded, and better yet if you can walk on the beach by the ocean.
So, my new strategy is to walk at least 10,000 steps a day and for the last month I have been able to average about 13,000 steps a day, including travelling. In my case, this meant I had to walk up and down airport terminals, but you do what you have to do. I believe the combination of high intensity training, non-exercise activities like walking 10,000 steps a day, along with avoiding sitting whenever possible is the key to being really fit and enjoying a pain-free and joyful life.
If you don’t have a fitness tracker that records your steps, I would encourage you to get one. Another advantage of some of the fitness trackers is that they can record how much you are really sleeping, and can help motivate you to get to bed earlier so you can get eight hours of sleep. I use the Jawbone UP24, which is one of the best ones out now, but far better ones will be available in the near future. For example, the MisFit1 is a new fitness tracker that tracks your steps and your sleep and starts at only $50.It looks like a watch but does not tell time.
Making It Work in the Work Place…
Not only do studies show that body weight improves when people stand up more during their work hours, productivity also goes up in companies that make such arrangements. As noted by Dr. Levine:
“Hardcore productivity – whether that’s the number of loads processed in one company, the financial services doubling in profit from another company – those numbers improved. The actual profits improved… The solution is simple, because actually the solution is to get people up. But the complexity – hence the book Get Up! – is: How do you actually build a working solution for a US corporation?
In order to do that… we developed 12 layers of deployment. A simple example: if you have a company, for example, much like my job that involves numerous meetings every single day, one of the recommendations for that company would be to have a system in place whereby walk-and-talk meetings become commonplace… If I can convert three of my meetings – and I may have eight in a day – into walk-and-talk meetings, that’s three hours of walking. Fantastic!
Again, unless you have the leadership agree, unless there’s a confidentiality code in that company, unless there is a protocol in place for doing this, unless there is clearance from the rest of the company, even as simple as it sounds in concept, it will not work.
…Whether it is in schools or whether it is in offices, what is critical to appreciate is that setting goals of getting up and getting down, getting up and getting down are simply impractical for 90 percent of American workers. What one has to do is understand the infrastructure and build solutions that enable people to be standing two to three hours extra per day than they are already.”
Automatic Benefits of Standing Desk Offices
As mentioned, Dr. Levine developed a treadmill desk, and there are already a number of standing desks on the market. These are excellent options. I, and many others, initially had doubts about whether a standing desk would do any good. I previously believed that standing still can be just as detrimental as sitting, but now I’m convinced otherwise and believe that standing desks are the way to go. According to Dr. Levine, such fears turn out to be mostly unfounded.
“When somebody gets a standing desk, they generally stand for several hours a day. But they don’t stand still,” Dr. Levine says. “A couple of things happen. The first thing that happens is, they generally move from leg to leg and generally change their body posture quite a lot. That weight-bearing and adjustment of weight-bearing has a whole series of physiological benefits to the musculature, the balance in musculature, the visual cortex, the testicular system, and so on.”
People with standing desks also tend to walk over to talk to their coworkers rather than sending an email or text. Two people working standing up who need to talk to each other also tend to naturally keep walking while talking.
“That is actually the trick of the standing-desk office,” Dr. Levine says. “Standing still isn’t actually terribly good for you, but the good news is you don’t naturally do it anyway. If people are often standing in an office space with many other workers, you inevitably create an atmosphere where people are up and moving. That is in fact the data. There’s a paper that’s just coming out actually exactly to this effect…
The ultimate dream of mine is that the default position in modern offices becomes the up and moving default as opposed to the current default, which is the sit and sedentary default… What I’m looking to do is switch the default. The way you switch the default is by a mass support based on giving people the best options, the best choice, and the best programs.”
Are You Ready to Give Up Your Chair?
The evidence is overwhelming at this point—10,000 studies and growing—that prolonged sitting is devastating to your health. It actively promotes dozens of chronic diseases, including overweight and type 2 diabetes. As a general guideline, if you’ve been sitting for an hour, you’ve sat too long. Dr. Levine recommends sitting no more than 50 minutes out of every hour. But that’s really a bare bones minimum recommendation. Ideally, you’d want to limit sitting altogether.
Again, people living in agricultural communities sit an average of just three hours a day, which would be an admirable goal. While it may sound “impossible,” it is doable—with a bit of ingenuity and mindfulness, I managed to limit my sitting to one hour per day while on my coast to coast tour. In addition to limiting your sitting as much as you possibly can, I also recommend challenging yourself to walk 10,000 steps per day. This is over and above your regular fitness program and standing up during work. Consider one of the new fitness trackers that can monitor your steps and your sleep.
Quite simply, most of us are still too sedentary on an hour-by-hour basis. The answer is simple, but it will require a change in thinking and being; a change in how we live, really. And we all have the power to do something—that’s the great part. So I encourage you to start thinking about how you can get more physical movement into your life, each and every hour of your waking day. To learn more, and for plenty of more tips and strategies, I highly recommend reading Dr. Levine’s book, Get Up!: Why Your Chair Is Killing You and What You Can Do About It.
While a healthy diet accounts for about 80 percent of the benefits you reap from a healthy lifestyle, exercise is the leverage that allows all of those benefits to be maximized.
You simply cannot be optimally healthy without regular physical movement—and this includes both non-exercise movement throughout the day, and a more vigorous exercise regimen.
Those who succeed at maintaining good health into old age typically have one thing in common: a healthy diet and regular exercise is part of their day-to-day lifestyle. It’s not an on-and-off proposition to fit into a particular garment for a special occasion.
As the above video from ModernHealthMonk alludes to, building new habits can be challenging however, especially when you’re trying to fit a new block of activity into an already packed schedule. So what’s the best way to get into the habit of exercising, and stick with it long-term?
Building Habits Around Cues
A recent study1 sought to find the answer to that question, and what they discovered was quite interesting. As reported by Time magazine:2
“The most consistent exercisers… were those who made exercise into a specific type of habit — one triggered by a cue, like hearing your morning alarm and going to the gym without even thinking about it, or getting stressed and immediately deciding to exercise.
‘It’s not something you have to deliberate about; you don’t have to consider the pros and cons of going to the gym after work,’ explains L. Alison Phillips, PhD… Instead, it’s an automatic decision instigated by your own internal or environmental cue.”
This kind of habit is referred to as “an instigation habit,” and it was found to provide people with the most consistent results. In fact, the strength of a person’s instigation habit was the only factor able to predict a person’s ability to maintain an exercise regimen over the long-term.
The idea that a habit is formed by doing the same thing over and over again is well-accepted, but when it comes to forming exercise habits, forcing yourself to repeat the same specific exercise “to get into the habit of doing it” may actually be counterproductive.
Instead, decide what your trigger cue will be, and then just follow through by going to the gym (or wherever you do your exercise) when the cue is triggered. The specific exercises performed once you get there is far less important, in terms of actually cementing your exercise habit.
The idea is to hinge the habit around a recurring cue, so that you head for the gym without actually having to consciously decide to do so each time.
Reframing the Rewards of Exercise
Another helpful strategy is to reframe your ideas on the rewards of exercise. If you’re like most people, you probably want to exercise in order to improve your health and/or lose weight.
However, research into the motivational aspects of exercise shows that such expectations actually do not propel most people into forming healthy exercise habits.
As noted by Dr. Michelle Segar, director of the Sport, Health and Activity Research and Policy Center at the University of Michigan:3
“Health is not an optimal way to make physical activity relevant and compelling enough for most people to prioritize in their hectic lives.”
What usually does work is focusing on the immediate rewards — i.e. how you feel right after exercising.
“I was going to skip my daily swim the other morning.. .But I knew from past experience that I would feel much better after 40 minutes of swimming laps. So in I went.
And, yes, I did feel better — not just refreshed, but more energetic, clearheaded and better prepared than I would have been otherwise to tackle the day’s essentials,’ Jane Brody writes.4
“… [Dr.] Segar… would say I had reframed my exercise experience, making it ever more likely that I would continue to swim — even on days when I didn’t feel like doing it — because I viewed it as a positive, restorative activity.
Indeed, exercise is something I do, not because I have to or was told to, but because I know it makes me feel better.”
Discovering the Joy of Feeling Good, and the Paradox of Self-Care
In short, discovering the inherent enjoyment you get from exercise in the more immediate term is key for making it a lifelong habit. And the immediate rewards are usually quite noteworthy.
Most will feel revitalized, refreshed, and more clear-headed shortly after exercising, and if your goal is to recapture that sense of well-being each time, rather than losing 20 pounds by summer, or heading off heart disease in some far distant future, you’re far more apt to stick to it.
After all, we all want to feel good — not in the future, but right now — and part of the “trick” is discovering how exercise can help you feel better more or less immediately. Discovering how exercise gives you the energy and stamina to be better equipped to help others is another key.
“When we do not prioritize our own self-care because we are busy serving others, our energy is not replenished. Instead, we are exhausted, and our ability to be there for anyone or anything else is compromised.’ People who make physical activity a priority don’t necessarily have more time than others. Rather, they make sure to schedule time for it because they know it enhances their performance and the quality of their daily lives…
Citing a ‘paradox of self-care,’ Dr. Segar wrote, ‘The more energy you give to caring for yourself, the more energy you have for everything else.’ She suggests viewing physical activity as a power source for everything else you want to accomplish. ‘What sustains us, we sustain’…”
Five Habits of People Who Never Skip a Workout
Based on her 20 years’ worth of experience studying motivation, Dr. Michelle Segar has written a book called No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness. In it, she reveals science-backed strategies for making exercise a lifelong habit. Here are five of her common-sense tips:6
Count all forms of physical activity: According to Dr. Segar, realizing that everything counts, including taking the stairs instead of the elevator; a 10 minute lunch walk, and half an hours’ worth of gardening—can be very transformative, as it removes feelings of failure. “It makes them feel successful every time they move, which leads to higher energy levels all day long,” she says.
Focus on the Now: Asking yourself “what can I do right now?” is another way to liberate yourself from time- and scheduling limitations. You may not have time to squeeze in 30 minutes of tennis, but perhaps you have time for a brisk walk during lunch, or a few sit-ups right next to your desk.
Do what you enjoy: Not surprisingly, research7 has shown that enjoyment is one of the strongest predictors of long-term exercise maintenance. According to Dr. Segar:
“Our brains are hardwired to respond to immediate gratification, and to do what makes us feel good. This is one of the reasons we tend to give up on chore-like workouts.”
Take ownership of your health and fitness: The idea that you “should” exercise isn’t compelling enough for most people. More often than not, such guilt trips will backfire, even when it’s self imposed. Instead, identify what it is you seek to gain from exercise. As noted earlier, honing in on the more immediate rewards, such as feeling refreshed and able to think more clearly right there and then, are more potent motivators than “avoiding future heart disease” or “losing 10 pounds.”
Make one change at a time: Trying to change several facets of your lifestyle all at once is usually a recipe for failure. For most people, changing your diet, starting an exercise regimen, and learning to meditate all at once is just too much. So incorporate new habits one at a time. You may even need to break some habits into smaller, more manageable chunks. “[A]bove all else, remember to keep it fun, because that is the true secret to lasting motivation,” Dr. Segar says. “Do the physical movement you want to do, when you want to do it, for the amount of time your life allows. That’s the best way to keep from lapsing altogether.”
Tips for Building a High-Quality Fitness Regimen
For optimal health and fitness, strive for a varied and well-rounded program that incorporates a wide variety of exercises to avoid hitting a plateau. As a general rule, as soon as an exercise becomes easy to complete, increase the intensity and/or try another exercise to keep challenging your body. I recommend incorporating the following types of exercises into your program:
Sit down as little as possible.The research is quite clear on this point: the more you sit, the greater the risks to your health. This applies even if you exercise regularly and are very fit. The key is to keep moving all day long. For ideas on how to incorporate more movement into your day, please see my interview with Dr. James Levine, author of the book Get Up!: Why Your Chair Is Killing You and What You Can Do About It.
If you have a desk job, I recommend getting a standing desk, or at the very least stand up at regular intervals. For ideas on quick exercises you can do right by your desk, check out this list of 30 videos. However, it is my experience that using a stand up desk is far superior to sitting and doing these exercises.
In addition to limiting your sitting as much as you possibly can, I also recommend challenging yourself to walk 7,000-10,000 steps per day. This is over and above your regular fitness program. You may want to consider one of the new fitness trackers that can monitor your steps and your sleep.
Look for opportunities to walk. I have a regular routine where I’m able to walk for nearly two hours on the beach while reading, and am able to get 17-18,000 steps a day. However, when I travel this is simply not possible, especially on travel days. So when I arrive at the airport gate, I don’t sit down like nearly everyone else. Instead I walk up and down the aisles and board the plane last, as I typically don’t have a carry on. This way, I’m still able to squeeze in about 7,000 steps on days that I’m traveling.
Strength Training: Rounding out your exercise program with a 1-set strength training routine will ensure that you’re really optimizing the possible health benefits of a regular exercise program. You can also “up” the intensity by slowing it down. For more information about using super slow weight training as a form of high-intensity interval exercise, please see my interview with Dr. Doug McGuff.
Core Exercises: Your body has 29 core muscles located mostly in your back, abdomen, and pelvis. This group of muscles provides the foundation for movement throughout your entire body, and strengthening them can help protect and support your back, make your spine and body less prone to injury, and help you gain greater balance and stability.Foundation Training, created by Dr. Eric Goodman, is an integral first step of a larger program he calls “Modern Moveology,” which consists of a catalog of exercises. Postural exercises such as those taught in Foundation Training are critical not just for properly supporting your frame during daily activities, they also retrain your body so you can safely perform high-intensity exercises without risking injury.Pilates and yoga are also great for strengthening your core muscles, as are specific exercises you can learn from a personal trainer. Some of the exercises described above, such as the V-up using a medicine ball, also fall into this category.
Stretching: My favorite type of stretching is active isolated stretches developed by Aaron Mattes. With Active Isolated Stretching, you hold each stretch for only two seconds, which works with your body’s natural physiological makeup to improve circulation and increase the elasticity of muscle joints. This technique also allows your body to repair itself and prepare for daily activity. You can also use devices like the Power Plate to help you stretch.