May I suggest you stand up while you read this? You’ll see why in a minute.
We all know exercise is good for us and will reduce our risk of dying prematurely and developing lots of medical conditions. We can feel pretty smug as runners that we’re looking after our health. Most of us will be smashing the weekly exercise recommendations issued by the Chief Medical Officer. (read it here)
The target is 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week, in fact if it’s vigorous exercise, like running, it’s only 75 minutes. So, it’s easy to assume that we’re all doing more than enough exercise to keep us in tip top shape for many years to come.
There’s more parts to those recommendations that often get overlooked. Point 2 on the guidelines is vital. SIT LESS. It’s becoming clear that what we do while we aren’t running has a huge impact on our health too. We can be lulled into a false sense of security thinking that the 5k run at the end of a long day at work or the conditioning class in the gym on the way home, will make everything ok. I’m afraid if we’ve spent the whole day sitting at a desk or lazing on the couch, then we have risks associated with that sedentary behaviour, regardless of how much exercise we do at the end of it. We can quite literally be an exercising couch potato.
Have you ever dug a rarely used torch out of the bottom of the drawer during a power cut only to find that it doesn’t work because the batteries have leaked? Sometimes even putting new batteries in doesn’t fix it as the contacts are ruined. Well our body works in a similar way. Our batteries are our mitochondria, they’re the powerhouse of our cells and they produce energy. They’re constantly charging up to provide the power for us to move about. If we don’t use up that energy, then the cell gets damaged and may ultimately die. This early cell death causes inflammation in the body which we now know is a root cause of most major diseases like heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes. If however we move about frequently, then the charge is released, used up and the cell remains healthy, lives on and our disease risk reduces.
We don’t really know yet how long it’s ‘safe’ to sit for but the general advice is to get up every 20 to 30 minutes and move around for a minute or two. If you’re a parent of young children you’re probably laughing and thinking that you’d love the chance to sit down for even five minutes. Your kids are doing you a favour, honestly! If you’re an office worker, especially full time, then this is majorly important for you, particularly for minimising your risk of type 2 diabetes. You need to find ways to reduce your sedentary time, you can’t just rely on your running. Look at your day and see what you can weave in. You don’t have to sprint about, just potter. Go upstairs to get something, put your printer on the other side of the room so you have to get up to collect your work. Go and talk to someone rather than send an email. How about a walking meeting; they’ve been found to be very productive? Make a pledge to stand up when you use the phone. Standing is underrated. Standing for three hours a day burns the same number of calories as running ten marathons in a year. Why not look at a standing desk? Extremists use a treadmill desk!
It’s not just the typical working week that’s a concern though, interestingly we’re more sedentary at weekends as shown in this slide from Public Health England:
Sitting is also bad for runners because it directly weakens the biggest muscles in our body – the glutes. Yep, gluteus muscles were not designed for working at a computer. Correct, healthy running requires well-conditioned glutes that fire off with every stride. Many of us have weak glutes (lazy arses) and tight hip flexors and that not only affects our running form and efficiency but underlies many common running injuries: knee pain, ITB syndrome, sciatica, Achilles tendon problems, you name it and weak glutes probably underlie it.
James Dunne, UKSportsChat expert sports rehab therapist wrote a great blog on it a few years ago with exercises to help strengthen those glutes and hip muscles. http://www.kinetic-revolution.com/glute-inhibition-or-glute-weakness/
So, it’s clear that good health is not all about the running. Clocking up those miles will be making a huge contribution to many areas of our future health and wellbeing, but this isn’t the whole picture. Sitting has its own risks to our health and our running so if you aren’t standing already then please, I ask you to stand and raise a glass to ‘#thefastesthouroftheweek’ I think we should do the next one standing up! [/restrict]