3 Simple Exercises to Counteract the Negative Effects of Too Much Sitting

Seems like we’re constantly learning new things about how the body works and the best ways to keep it functioning well.  Many of us are interested in longevity and well-being — living a healthy and fulfilling life for as long as we can.

So what are the best ways to do that?

There are many factors that support health and enhance well-being, as well as many factors that are detrimental to them.  And it turns out that one of our most common daily activities — sitting — is on the minus side of the ledger.

In fact, it has been found that prolonged periods of sitting (longer than 1 hour at a time) is about as bad for us as being obese or smoking cigarettes.

Those of us who seek to optimize our health can sometimes catch ourselves looking askance at smokers or fat people… “Don’t they know,” we ask ourselves, “what they’re doing to themselves?”

It seems that once the following information trickles into the cultural consciousness, people may also begin looking with a combination of disapproval and/or pity at an office worker who sits at his desk all day or someone who spends hours sitting on his couch playing video games or watching TV.

“Doesn’t he know,” we may wonder, “how bad that is for him?”

Over the last couple of years, the scientific evidence has been mounting regarding the negative effects of sitting.  The fact that we’re so sedentary might begin to explain many of the bad health consequences of our modern, “civilized” lifestyle.  The human body is not intended to be used mostly for sitting around all day (just as it is not intended to be used for eating lots of high-fructose corn syrup or trans fat).  The body, it turns out, thrives on regular movement and deteriorates when it is sitting for a long time — or when it holds any type of stationary position for long periods (which includes standing still).

To get the complete picture, just read Sitting Kills, Moving Heals by Dr. Joan Vernikos, former Director of the Life Sciences Division at NASA.

Paying attention to exercising and lengthening the posterior chain muscles is one of the best ways to counteract the negative health effects of sitting too much.

The posterior chain

What is more, it turns out that an exercise program does not counteract the negative effects of sitting.  That is, you can work out every day for an hour, but if you’re sitting at a desk for 8 hours, sitting down in the evening to watch TV, sitting down when you drive to work or ride the bus, sitting down when you eat all your meals, then that 1 hour of exercise does not make a difference.  The sitting is too much of a negative drag.  You can’t overcome it with just a half hour to an hour of exercise, even if you exercise every day.

Bummer.  You thought going to the gym was giving you a lot of benefits.  Well, it is, but if you’re primarily a desk jockey or couch potato, gym time (or playing a sport, riding a bike, etc.) is not fixing the bigger leak in your health dam.Now that you know that prolonged sitting is bad for you, what should you do about it?

Turns out there’s a lot you can do.  The body is adaptable.  You can counteract the effects of sitting too much… first, by not sitting for longer than one hour without getting up.  Even better, stand up every 20 minutes or so (set a timer or use another cue).  Move around a little bit when you do (or do one of the exercises below).  Dr. Vernikos says that standing up 35 times a day at regular intervals will do wonders to restore and preserve proper metabolism and muscular function to those who sit a lot.  (And no, standing up 35 times in the space of a couple minutes does not count.)

Cutting-edge exercise researchers and trainers are finding out that everyday activities — washing the dishes, gardening, sweeping the porch, playing with your dog, doing laundry, painting a wall, etc. — may be more important to maintaining a strong, well-functioning body than any exercise program.  You just have to move.

There is a more focused way to counteract the effects of sitting, however.  Doctor Eric Goodman, the inventor of “Foundation Training,” has discovered ways to bring renewed physical strength and well-being to our bodies.  His foundation exercises reverse many of the negative consequences that arise from our mostly sedentary lifestyle, from too-slow metabolism to chronic back pain.

If you’re willing to begin doing just 3 exercises that Dr. Goodman has formulated, you too can regain better health and function, whether you’re an Olympic athlete or just an ordinary Joe who drives a bus all day.  Goodman is acquiring many disciples among exercise professionals and athletes, including Dr. Joseph Mercola, who has written extensively on his site about Goodman’s work.

First, here is Eric Goodman giving a TED talk about the foundation of his “Foundation Training” (the title of the talk is:  “The Unexpected Physical Consequences of Technology”).  This video incorporates a basic move that will begin to bring your body back to its natural state of well-being:


This next video demonstrates how to do “The Founder,” the basic exercise of Foundation Training.  There are a number of benefits from doing this exercise alone:


Finally, here is a video showing how to do the “Adductor Assisted Back Extension.”  These exercises are targeting the posterior chain muscles.  You’ll also note some similarities in how they feel to the core exercises I wrote about previously.


Doing these three exercises will not only help you counteract the negative health consequences of sitting for prolonged periods (and remember, sitting in and of itself is not bad; it’s sitting too long that’s bad, just as with doing anything too much), it will begin to strengthen the muscles on which the whole body depends for strength and effective movement.  For additional info on Foundation Training, see Eric Goodman’s site here.

Of course, Foundation Training is not the be-all, end-all of health and fitness.  It is, as the title implies, the foundation on which you build.  To be completely fit — strong, with good stamina, flexible, injury-free, agile, vigorous — requires a comprehensive approach.  And if you’re an athlete, you must also practice your sport(s).

For more info about different types of comprehensive exercises you can do to increase your overall strength and fitness, visit Sole Fitness and/or Weider Fitness for products and instructional materials.

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