Sunday, September 19, 2010


It appears that neither does one any good. According to the papers last week (and scientists of the school of "Stating The Blindingly Obvious") exercise does little to combat obesity (one has, wait for it.....reduce the amount of food/calories eaten! Dah, dah!) but hats off to the scientists who did come up with something slightly more surprising - sitting can speed one to an early death.

And even more surprising - no amount extra-curricular sweating and exercise can prevent the inevitable magnetic pull towards the six feet under, if you're keeping it cushy. Sitting for 6 or more hours a day can reduce your chances of survival by 37% it appears (less so if you are a man), and yes, even if you do go for a swift jog around the park before stepping into the death chamber (oops! I meant the office) it won't make much difference.

Very susceptible to news of this sort, being particularly enamored with life, I immediately started to reduce my sitting time drastically. I placed my computer on a chest of drawers (but for a more chic alternative try height adjustable desks here - and took to the rest of the day propping up and against large bits of furniture instead of being propped up by smaller ones. At the end of a particularly computer -heavy demanding day (yes, yoga instructors have them too) I was completely and utterly SHATTERED. Try standing for six hours and see how you feel. It makes sense; apparently one uses up double the calories by standing compared to sitting. So if you want to reduce your waistline, get off your butt. Literally.

It appears the reason for this is that muscles need to be held under tension, muscles enjoy being used, and suffer along with our metabolism, when forced to jelly like immobility.

It is also due to this that one of my particular bees in my bonnet ( "fixations" - sorry that's a note to my italian students to whom these "bees" may be a little too abstract) when it comes to yoga is - STRENGTH. Yoga is not just about sitting (honest!!) and "om-ing". Huge benefits are gained from working under physical tension thanks to both increased absorption of nutrients to your bones - thereby staving off osteoporosis and promoting a healthy skeleton, but also at a muscular level; lipoprotein lipase (a molecule that helps process fat) can only be produced when a muscle it is being employed. The plank position is a wonderful lipoprotein lipase promotor, for example!

Back to the office .......the good news is this: it appears that taking short regular breaks throughout the day, polka dotting your six hour sitting stint with little bouts of walking and stretching is enough to counteract “Death by Desk”.

So at every opportunity get up and walk around. As Hugh Wilson in his very interesting article about the subject in the Independent suggests;

- Deliver messages to colleagues personally rather than via email

- Go out for lunch and take a walk around town rather than munching a sandwich at your desk,

- Conduct meetings and take phone calls standing up

- If you have any say in office lay out, place printers, fax machines(do they still exist?!) coffee machines far from desks, forcing one to walk a few steps extra.

I would suggest too;

- Keep a big bottle of water at your desk - drink more and take more regular trips to the toilet.

- Take up smoking and go ouside on ciggie breaks (that's a joke)

- If you are He o She Who Must Be Obeyed (the boss) implement a five minute walking time per hour where workers can get up and go for a mingle. Do wonders for legs, the spirit, productivity, life expectancy and possibly romance. And install an exercise bike (why not?!) where one can get up and go for a quick peddle (why do small mice on spinning wheels suddenly spring to mind?!). A skipping rope may be cheaper (do I sound completely MAD? probably). Or to improve general mood and encourage sense of humor, a small trampoline.

But totally serious now, if I were a boss and had the space I would definitely have a small recreation yoga and or muscle promoting space for employees.

For your homework I suggest you reduce sitting time as much a feasibly possible, implement your own regular up-and-about breaks.

And for yoga strength try the following; dolphin plank pose, Chaturanga Dandasana -four limbed staff pose, utkatasana - chair pose, virabahdrasana - warrior

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