You’re probably not going to like what I’m about to say, but I think it will resonate with most people out there… Modern living has meant that the way we move is now – totally – F**ked. Where did it all go wrong?
A client of mine was telling me how they spend over TEN hours a day sitting at their desk in front of the computer. In fact, most jobs require us to be in front of a desk all day – We’re a generation whose breaking all kinds of records in the ‘most time spent on our backside’ category.
Doing a quick browse on the internet I found that the National Health Service, here in the U.K, touch upon the problem. Their analysis: excessive sitting is bad… They even go on to say:
“Studies have linked excessive sitting with being overweight and obese, type 2 diabetes, some types of cancer, and early death.”
Interestingly, they also say that the problems associated with sitting down were first noticed during a study linking illness with sitting as far back as the 1950’s – It turns out that London bus drivers, during that time, would have twice the chance of experiencing a heart attack compared to their conductor colleagues…
Excessive sitting is simply not natural for our bodies. Our ancestors used their bodies a variety of ways for daily tasks that regularly accessed the full spectrum of human movement potential. We have since replaced squatting with sitting down. When you look at people in developing cultures who’s daily routine involves much more physical labour, in places like India, Africa, and Asia, they naturally squat with perfect form, and straight back.
Sitting down is ingrained in us from a very early age at school. In fact, it’s probably a primary school teacher’s first job: How do you get kids to keep still, sit down, and do their work? I’ve read some great articles on schools in America who provide the kids with pillows to sit on, or wobble chairs to let them fidget whilst learning. The results seem great, especially with those on the ADHD spectrum. Another school uses a device resembling an elastic band that’s attached to the desk’s legs; this allows the kids to bounce their feet on it… in turn having positive effects on the child’s academic results.
“Maybe teachers shouldn’t punish kids for movement, and should allow them to fidget as long as it doesn’t disturb the rest of the class,”
said Tadeus A. Hartanto, who lead a trial by trial analysis of how physical activity is associated with better cognitive control performance in attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, in Child Neuropsychology.
Steiner schools place an emphasis on attending the needs of the ‘whole’ child. This includes academic, physical, emotional, and spiritual. If you haven’t heard of them – they figured that if you address all different phases of a child’s development, the kids ultimately appreciate and love going to school.
WELLBEING IN THE WORKPLACE
Steiner schools’ approach to wellbeing and work can be seen more and more in corporate workplaces. The question being: How do I get my employees to feel great at work, and in turn get the best results out of them? Silicon Valley giants such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google all have wellbeing policies and doctrines that I’m sure their employees appreciate. Far seem the days of the office metre square cubicle…
Mark Zuckerberg and Barack Obama are both said to be big proponents of the ‘walking meeting’. It creates a human bond and conversation rather than being two employees talking about work. Not only does it break down barriers, gets us speaking on a human level, and lead to creative solutions and problem solving – it also gets us up, and out, of our chairs. There’s even a TED talk about it.
According to Dr. Joan Vernikos, research scientist and former director of NASA’s Life Sciences Division, even traditional strenuous gym workouts are ineffective at offsetting the ill effects of sitting.
“Medical studies on astronauts show that gravity-challenging, all-day movement is more essential to good health than traditional exercise” | Dr Joan Vernikos
In her work she refers to ‘the gravity vector’, and how our interaction with gravity is essential to health. I have written more on this topic and the vestibular system here.. http://www.amnacademy.com/poop-puke-and-pass-out/
Here’s some of what we do know:
The less we move, the less we stimulate our brains. The less we stimulate our brains, the more energy efficient the brain becomes at not moving. Unfortunately, not moving around is deleterious to health. A quick search on pubmed for research related to ‘Sedentary lifestyles and health’ throws up 5936 citations. It’s well researched and the overwhelming conclusion is that excessive sitting down is bad for us.
WHAT DOES MOVEMENT HAVE TO DO WITH THE BRAIN?
“We have a brain for one reason and one reason only, and that’s to produce adaptable and complex movements.”
Well, the body is covered in thousands of receptors, approximately 20% of these receptors are termed ‘Exteroceptive’, meaning they respond to stimulus from outside of the body. The remaining 80% are interoceptive and report to the big guy upstairs on the internal state of the tissues themselves, with obvious interaction between the two systems providing the whole picture to the brain.
Exteroceptive receptors are sensitive to things like pressure, tissue distortion, stretch, tension, texture etc, basically, the kind of things that happen to the body when we move and interact with our environment. The information these receptors read from movement are an important currency for the brain, that currency is activation.
So without movement, the brain lacks important levels of activation and if there’s one organ we don’t want to make too lazy, it’s the brain.
It’s clear that while any movement is better than none; the more complex the movement, the more of the brain is activated. In fact, Neuroscientist Daniel Wolpert, states: We have a brain for one reason and one reason only, and that’s to produce adaptable and complex movements.
This TED Talk has some really valuable content: https://www.ted.com/talks/daniel_wolpert_the_real_reason_for_brains/transcript?language=en
IS IT ALL ABOUT MOVEMENT?
It certainly is to a degree, but there’s another huge topic here that isn’t often mentioned in these sorts of discussions, and that’s the environment that the sitting pandemic ties us too.
Historically, humans moved around barefoot or with footwear made of animal skins. We would also sleep on the ground or on skins, meaning we have evolved whilst in direct contact with the earth 100% of the time. The surface of the earth is electrically conductive, possessing a continuously renewed and limitless supply of free electrons. When the skin, or the skin via a conductive surface is in contact with the planet, electrons enter the body and match the electric potential of the body with that of the earth (1). This ‘earthing’ acts to stabilise the electrical fields of all organs, tissues, and cells.
Recent research has shown that earthing; reduces electric fields induced on the body (2), reduces overall stress levels and tension and creates shift in autonomic nervous system (ANS) balance (3), and crucially has confirmed the ANS shift as sympathetic to parasympathetic activation (4).
Essentially we are human batteries, and batteries need charge to be effective. People are no different. We receive our charge from photons delivered to us via the sun (5) and electrons from the ground. When we disconnect completely from our environment, bathe ourselves in dangerous blue light frequencies from computers, and gadgets of the modern age as well as other sources of non-natural electromagnetic frequencies (nnEMF), and sit down all day in that environment, we may simply be adding insult to injury.
SO WHAT CAN WE DO?
Short of quitting your job and heading off to live barefoot in the woods, we can make better choices when exercising, get outside more in the daylight and earth the body whenever possible.
The obvious recommendation is to get up and move around as much as possible while at work. But in light of the above information, that most likely is only going to be so effective.
Try not to sit down or lie down too much when you exercise. Consider incorporating basic complex movement skills into your training. We recommend gymnastics progressions, warm-ups that incorporate rolling patterns, level changes, and coordination or getting involved in practices such as Qi Gong. Training outside is also of huge benefit.
Get outside between 8am and 11am in the morning and walk around, no sunglasses allowed. This is one of the times of day when the atmosphere is naturally filtering out harmful blue light from full spectrum sunlight which contains the beneficial frequencies to charge your batteries.
Blue light from computers, mobile phones etc is deleterious to health by altering the natural circadian rhythms of the body. Use blue light blockers for your computers and backlit gadgets.
Skin contact with the earth cannot be replaced, however the health benefits of earthing mats, pads and bed sheets are well researched and can be utilised at work and at home in an attempt to protect yourself from the harmful artificial environments of modern life, by syncing with nature through a plug socket.
Ultimately, it is clear that as technology evolves and our lifestyles adapt to our modern environment, we are moving away from the evolutionary habits that have rooted us to the earth. Adapting to our new of living: sitting for over 10 hours a day at a desk, excessive exposure to blue light, and the lack of skin contact with the earth is having a detrimental effect to our wellness. At AMN we can see the future of health and wellness being centred around preventive care, and counteracting environmental toxicity.
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- Halliday D, Resnick R, Walker J. Fundamentals of Physics, Fourth Edition. New York, NY, USA: John Wiley & Sons; 1993.
- Applewhite R. The effectiveness of a conductive patch and a conductive bed pad in reducing induced human body voltage via the application of earth ground. European Biology and Bioelectromagnetics. 2005;1:23–40
- Chevalier G, Mori K, Oschman JL. The effect of Earthing (grounding) on human physiology. European Biology and Bioelectromagnetics. 2006;2(1):600–621
- Chevalier G. Changes in pulse rate, respiratory rate, blood oxygenation, perfusion index, skin conductance, and their variability induced during and after grounding human subjects for 40 minutes. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2010;16(1):1–7
- Crawford MA, Broadhurst CL, Guest M, Nagar A, Wang Y, Ghebremeskel K, et al. A quantum theory for the irreplaceable role of docosahexaenoic acid in neural cell signalling throughout evolution. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2013;88:5–13. [PubMed]
- Grønli J, Byrkjedal IK, Bjorvatn B, Nødtvedt Ø, Hamre B, Pallesen S. Reading from an iPad or from a book in bed: the impact on human sleep. A randomized controlled crossover trial. Sleep Med. 2016 May;21:86-92. doi: 10.1016/j.sleep.2016.02.006. Epub 2016 Mar 2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2744847
- Ghaly M, Teplitz D. The biologic effects of grounding the human body during sleep as measured by cortisol levels and subjective reporting of sleep, pain, and stress. J Altern Complement Med. 2004 Oct;10(5):767-76.