Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Just Standing- Back Health and Weight Loss

More articles on why standing is better than sitting, plus an exercise that will help:

Stand Up While You Read This!
Your chair is your enemy.

It doesn’t matter if you go running every morning, or you’re a regular at the gym. If you spend most of the rest of the day sitting — in your car, your office chair, on your sofa at home — you are putting yourself at increased risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, a variety of cancers and an early death. In other words, irrespective of whether you exercise vigorously, sitting for long periods is bad for you.
The always interesting and thorough New York Times writer Olivia Judson gives this lively overview on the topic of not sitting.

Can’t Stand to Sit Too Long? There’s a Desk for That
Although standing up all day seemed better for his back than sitting down, the real pleasure was in being able to change positions over the course of the day. A moveable desk lets him do that; whenever his body threatens to stiffen into a single aching pose, he switches to another.
The chair is the chair, what can be done?  You can compensate, by occasionally sitting on a stability ball, or, purchasing an adjustable height desk.  My favorite part is the mention that it is the ability to change the method of using the desk, not just finding a single perfect position and holding it, that provides the benefit.  That's why sitting on a stability ball is good- they make you move around a bit.

Weighing the Evidence on Exercise
"In a completed but unpublished study conducted in his energy-metabolism lab, Braun and his colleagues had a group of volunteers spend an entire day sitting. If they needed to visit the bathroom or any other location, they spun over in a wheelchair. Meanwhile, in a second session, the same volunteers stood all day, “not doing anything in particular,” Braun says, “just standing.” The difference in energy expenditure was remarkable, representing “hundreds of calories,” Braun says, but with no increase among the upright in their blood levels of ghrelin or other appetite hormones. Standing, for both men and women, burned multiple calories but did not ignite hunger. One thing is going to become clear in the coming years, Braun says: if you want to lose weight, you don’t necessarily have to go for a long run. “Just get rid of your chair.” "
This article is primarily about how exercise helps, or doesn't, with controlling body weight.  The gist is that exercise isn't so good for losing weight, but is great for keeping it off.  At the end was the paragraph I quote above, offering yet more evidence for my Don't Sit Down campaign.

A Simple Standing Exercise
Sometimes the exercises I describe are advanced and require gym equipment.  The one leg step down is an easier one that can be done at home and that works those standing muscles, including the ones needed for lateral(side to side) stability and movement.  Plus, it improves balance.

Stand on the bottom step of a stairway, facing sideways, with one foot on the step and the other hanging above the floor.  Hold the rail at first, but work on balancing without using your hands.  Lower the unsupported foot to the floor, lightly tap, and raise it.  Try to get the hips tilting up and down to work the abductors.  Keep your weight back and torso upright.  Do up to 20 repetitions, then turn around and do the other side

This exercise works the muscles needed for leg and hip extension- glutes and quads primarily, but the unusual part is the emphasis on leg abduction.  The abductors are the muscles on the side of the hip connecting the pelvis to the leg.  Stand with your arms akimbo* and your hands are on them.  Even people who know what the abductors are often think of them only in terms of moving the leg sideways, and they do.  Their primary role however is to stabilize and control the lateral angle between the leg and the pelvis(frontal plane) while the leg is pressing on the ground.  Stand on your right leg, and the right abductors prevent or allow the hips to tilt sideways.

As you get stronger, try 3 taps on the floor- to the front, out to the side, and then to the back.  Imagine that straight down is the center of a clock dial and tap at 12, 9, and 6.  Also really work at elevating the side of the hip when you raise your foot. For fun, kick the leg out to the side as it is raised, and bouncing up on the front of the standing foot.  If you can still do more than 20 reps, bravo!  you're ready to buy some iron(weights) or start going to the gym.

 *A chance to use the word "akimbo" is not to be wasted!

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