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Friday, September 9, 2011

We Sit Too Much!

Human movements are hard wired into our DNA.  Watch a toddler perform a squat, sit-up, clean & Jerk...  Their execution of these movements is perfect!

Perfect Squat!
You do not have to teach a child how to perform these movements.  So why do you have to teach an adult?  Why is doing a squat so difficult for some people?  Why is it so hard to learn the proper technique of a Clean & Jerk?

One simple reason is people don't perform these movements regularly.  Our society has become very convenient.  We have tables and shelves that keep items at standing levels so we don't have to squat.  We have elevators so we don't have to use stairs.  We have grocery stores to "pick" our vegetables from (which people don't eat enough of!) so we don't have to squat down and pick them ourselves.  All these conveniences have made it possible for us to not have to perform basic, functional movements.
"OK Mike, I get we don't perform these movements often because of modern day conveniences.  But why can't we re-learn them easily?  You said they are hard wired into our DNA, so shouldn't we be able to re-learn the movements easily... Like riding a bike? 
 Great Question!  It is because...
We sit too much!

We sit in our cars on the way to work.

We sit in our office chair all day.  We sit in our cars on the way back home from work.  We sit on our couch and watch TV.

Some of us even sit while "going for a walk!"

We go to bed and repeat this cycle the next day.  I would say most people spend about 85% of their day sitting!

All this sitting, with back slouched and "muted" hips, causes significant tightness in the hips, weakens every muscle in the body and puts constant stress on lumbar spine ligaments and tendons (one of the main causes of chronic back pain!).  These tightness and weakness issues are very hard to overcome.  You will see people's knees buckling and back slouching while trying to squat because of weakness and tightness.  Backs will arch while trying to press weight over head because of tight shoulders and upper back.
"Awesome Mike!  Great stuff!  So now I know why my squat sucks and I can't do a Clean & Jerk.  So what do I do about it?  And what can our culture do to cure this issue?"
Great question mythical conversationalist!  I am glad to be of assistance!

You Practice!  The best way to get better at squatting is to do squats!  The best way to get better at picking stuff up and putting it over head is to pick stuff up and put it over head!  The trick?  It is important to practice good mechanics.  Practice does not make perfect.  Perfect practice makes perfect!

There are also other "assistance" movements you can perform, like bootstrappers, lunges, fire hydrants, hip circles... that will help increase mobility and strength.

Culturally?  It is important to start with the children.

Children perform these movements naturally and easily.  Then we place them in classrooms and make them sit for 6 hours a day!  If they don't sit still for the day we pump them full of Ritalin.  A lot of damage has been done by the time a child makes it through high school and college.

Let children move!  Don't make them sit still for hours at a time.  Let them stand up and move around.  Create interactive classrooms that merge physical and mental challenges.  If we had more physically active classrooms our children would be smarter and more physically fit.  This would make for a much healthier and smarter country!


Now that the school year has started, I pass a son and his child waiting for the school bus. Both of them squat to wait for the bus to arrive. It makes me smile.

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