You might have heard the phrase “sitting is the new smoking.” Well its true! Sitting for long amounts of time can cause numerous health issues and long lasting effects on our body.
So, just stand all the time! If only it were that easy….
The truth is we live in a sitting society. The average adult sits around 6.5 hours a day and teens even more! 80 percent of contemporary jobs are sedentary or involve only light activity and when we’re done with work, we sit even more by watching movies or tv for entertainment.
As travelers, we find ourselves sitting quite a lot – on planes, trains and doing our work online as digital nomads. We spend long stretches of time sitting and hunching over our laptops.
You could always find ways to stand while doing all of these things but, if and when that isn’t possible, the tips we’re about to dive into are for YOU! Its possible to stay healthy, fit and continue to go about your everyday life.
The 30 Minute Rule
The first healthy habit to cultivate, when sitting for long periods of time, is breaking it up by getting up and moving around every 30 minutes. Even if it’s something very simple like walking around the room a few times or stepping outside for some fresh air its just the act of getting up and changing your position that is needed to get the blood flowing and the brain powered back up. Here are 4 quick ways to get the body moving in five or less minutes!
Number 1: Stretch.
A quick stretching routine. When we take a break from sitting, the goal is to get the blood moving and also counter the position our body has been in for the past half-hour. What better way to do that than with some yoga stretches? If you’re at work or in a public place, it can be harder to get a chance to do some yoga poses but you can always do some simple spinal twists, head rolls and side bends. If you are somewhere were you can pull out your mat, then these two poses are our favorite to counter long periods of sitting. Hold each for a few minutes.
This is such a great pose for so many different reasons! Not only does it stretch and lengthen the spine and open the hips and shoulders but it can also reduce stress and give you an amazing energy boost!
If your feeling extra tight in the side body, you can always use a block or a book under your hand for extra length.
Goddess pose/Utkata Konasana
Goddess pose is a grounding and centering pose that really goes deep into the hips and legs part of the body which can really suffer from lots of sitting.
It also strengthens the legs, calves, abs, and knees while also stretching the shoulder joint.
Number TWO: Shake it out.
Have you ever noticed how a dog shakes out its whole body after any experience? Whether they’ve just been pet, take a bath or met a new friend at the dog park they often take a moment and shake it out, this is their way to let go of tension throughout their body and reenergize. Well guess what! It doesn’t just work for dogs.
When we shake out the body, we stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system and signal the brain to calm, relax and let go. Shaking also activates the lymphatic system of our body, which helps our body get rid of toxins.
So, next time you need to let it all go and want to feel refreshed, just try shaking it out! Let go of any worries, stress, anxiety and freely move the body!
If you need a little more structure, you can use this quick shake-out pattern:
Start with the right arm, shaking it out four times and counting aloud. Then move to the left arm and do the same thing, counting as you shake that arm four times. Next, the legs shake – counting four times on each leg. Speeding up a little, repeat the same thing with each arm and leg but shaking it three times. Now, repeat and speed it up more, shaking for only two times each. And, finally, end it with one quick shake of each arm and leg.
Number THREE: Nature bathing
Step outside your door, go into your backyard, walk to a nearby park – whatever you do, just take a moment to notice your surroundings. Take in a deep breath of fresh air through your nose and fill up your whole belly before letting it all out through your mouth. Notice any smells, any sounds… Is there a breeze? Try to find something you’ve never noticed before – a sign, a tree, a rock.
Oops! My half-hours up, one second I’ll be right back……
Ahhh…that was nice! Just stepped outside for some fresh air, definitely needed that. Now, where were we?
Number FOUR: Breathing techniques
We don’t always have to be physically moving to shift the energy in our body. Our breath is one of our most powerful tools and can be used in so many different ways! If you’ve been sitting for a while, most likely your breath has become shallow. In yoga, they measure life not by years but by breaths – the deeper and slower you breath, the longer you live.
Doing breathwork helps stop our acute stress response and diverts the health problems associated with chronic stress. By cultivating the body’s relaxation response, deep abdominal breathing helps reduce blood pressure as well. We can also use the breath to boost our energy or calm down and focus the mind. Below is a simple but incredibly effective breathing technique. You can do this standing up or sitting down, though standing up is preferable. 😉
Breath retention: Take a deep breath in and fill up the lungs, let the rib cage and belly expand. Once you have gone as far as you can, hold the breath for a count of four and then slowly release, emptying out the belly. Wonderful! If its too much to hold for the count of four, you can always do three or even two. And if you have any health issues, such as low blood pressure, etc., please be careful! You can hold the breath at the top of the inhale for increasing your energy or at the bottom of the exhale for calm and focus. You can also hold it on both the inhale and exhale for regulating your nervous system.
Learn more breathing techniques in our YouTube breathwork video from Amorgos Greece.