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Benjamin hamster

by Johdi Woodford, Little Bird Pilates

“Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV, and is more treacherous than parachuting, we are sitting ourselves to death” says Dr James Levine, the Director of the Mayo Clinic at the Arizona State University Obesity Solutions Initiative.

Scary isn’t it? So what should we do about it? Simple, you say, make everybody move to a standing desk, or worse, a treadmill desk, ugh! Can you imagine, talk about being a human hamster, or literally being in the Rat Race? But apparently, researchers have found that sitting down for more than 6 hours per day will greatly increase your risk of an early death. So seriously, what are we going to do about it? Well, now that we’ve all been made increasingly aware of the impending doom by a recent spate of scare-mongering headlines, we’re all going to make sure that we get up regularly from our chair to move around more (read more trips to the water fountain, not more runs to the vending machine!) And that’s it, simple as that, the end to our problems? No, not really. Because, as we get up from our chair, 90% (and that’s a conservative estimate) of us will take our smart phone along and use the time to send a message or two, or check our news feeds, right? And then we’re at risk from the dreaded ‘Text Neck’. Yes, it’s a real thing, according to doctors. It’s caused the constant, downward-looking gaze that puts an enormous strain on your neck muscles. When you’re standing straight, your head weighs about 10-12 pounds. But, as the head comes forward further and further, so the weight of it increases exponentially: at 15 degrees forward, the head weighs 27 pounds, at 45 degrees forward, the head weighs 60 pounds. All this increases the load on muscles that are simply not built for it and can lead to a great deal of damage over time.

So? You ask again, What can we do about it?

And here’s the crux of it: accept the inevitable and then work to improve it. We’re all going to sit for a while each day, it may even be for 6 hours of more, and we’re all going to continue to enjoy the ingenuity of mobile technology, but while we’re doing these 2 things we can also work on our posture. Ugh! Your groan, hearing your mother’s voice from childhood yelling at you to “Stand Up Straight!”. Yes, nothing’s changed, your posture determines how your body both reacts and then adapts to stresses placed upon it. If you’re posture isn’t good your muscles have to work harder against gravity to keep you upright. Some muscles will become tight and inflexible which will cause imbalances and then more wear and tear, and eventually injury and chronic pain. Your mother was right, you should stand straight and here’s what good posture looks like:

Stack your spine when you’re standing. Hips over your feet, knees unlocked and legs lengthening away from the torso, your head is over your hips, chin parallel with the floor and shoulders are down.

When sitting you should feel supported by your chair, your head is vertical, shoulders are relaxed and feet are flat on the floor.

Like that, your centre of gravity remains over your support base, and your muscles can move wih minimal strain and therefor continue to function normally for longer, meaning ease of movement for longer, which is always a bonus, let’s face it!

So, don’t rush off to buy a standing desk, or an ergonomic chair, unless your physio tells you to, simply work better with what you have and be aware of how you hold yourself and how often you move yourself. Hold yourself tall and straight, even when you’re bent over the handlebars of your racing bike, and move as often as you can.

Author's Bio

johdi biophotoJohdi Woodford

Johdi was born in Zimbabwe in 1979 and discovered Pilates in 1999 when a leg injury ended her marathon running career and an osteopath suggested she try Pilates. She began to practice Pilates regularly in every country she lived in and, having arrived in Switzerland in 2004, and having worked in the Marketing & Communication sectors, she decided to make her passion her career and trained to become a Pilates Instructor after the birth of her first child. She has been certified with the Pilates Institute in Geneva and London and teaching since 2010. Her training includes workshops on Pilates for pre and post pregnancy, Pilates for seniors, as well as special sessions led by physiotherapists on the rehabilitation of the back, shoulder and hip girdle.

Johdi opened Little Bird Pilates in 2014 with the aim of sharing her passion for intelligent exercise to a wider audience. Her main aim is to help people, of any age and any sporting background, to find freedom of movement, and gain strength and suppleness without pain and discomfort, which then improves their daily lives. Johdi regularly attends workshops and seminars in order to continue to deepen and broaden her knowledge and technique.