I went back to uni in September 2019 to study Physiotherapy and as a result I have found myself sitting in lectures between 6-8 hours a day, not to mention the additional study! Already I have felt the impact and dangers of sitting on my health!
How can I combat the dangers if sitting when it makes up most of my day?
But before I explain what sitting is doing to me I want to take a brief moment to explain why I have gone back to uni.
I believe that we suffer way too much! In health and wellbeing. Society places many of us in a position where it is easier and more convenient to be unhealthy (stay with me I will explain). Expectation has changed the workplace to expect performance but often at the detriment of physical and often mental wellbeing. I think that social media has screwed us up about how we view our physical bodies, our relationships with food and exercise are being compromised and that the increasing prevalence of many diseases like diabetes, cancers, dementia, Alzheimer’s, stroke and more are significantly impacted by lifestyle and the western way of doing things! And I believe that we can change this! And it starts with you! One person, one change, one gigantic shift in health and longevity!
Let me share just a few of my thoughts about this from my work in this profession for the last decade:
- It is cheaper to buy high sugar, high fat cakes and biscuits that it is to buy fruit sometimes!
- Diet adverts are everywhere and rather than promoting real foods and exercise the expectation is to buy crap filled ‘diet’ cakes, bars, microwave meals, shakes and junk!
- The smallest part of the supermarket is the fresh produce section!
- A meal deal; high in fats, sugar, salt and crap is cheaper and easier to get hold of that a healthy real food meal!
- Medication is promoted more so than lifestyle changes! Even when lifestyle can prevent the need for medication in many cases!
- Exercise seems to be a dirty word!
- Medical training does not cover nutritional science, nutrition is the last consideration for good health and prevention, as is exercise.
- GPs should be working side by side with local exercise professionals to promote physical activity but that’s not happening (yet).
- A frequent barrier to seeking professional support is that often people consider gym memberships/professional support from exercise and nutrition professionals too expensive. But will happily spend £2-5 a day on starbucks coffee, snacks and eating out on high calorie foods.
I could add to the list no end but I don’t want to bore you. My point is:
Sometimes the environment, our situation, our responsibilities make it easier and more convenient to be sedentary, to eat poor nutritional foods and therefore to treat the symptoms of inactivity and poor diet (our lifestyle) with medications or to live with the unpleasant symptoms!
So I went back to uni because I believe that we can all be more in control of our wellness and I want to be able to offer that service to those who need my support. Studying Physiotherapy helps me to bring more skills and experience to those who come to me with pain, illness or injury or difficulty in accessing physical activity. I want more skills to help more people.
However, in expanding my knowledge I have been sitting more! Prior to studying I was in FitER health club all the time. If I wasn’t teaching classes I was up and down, working with clients, cleaning, moving and moving. My job was active and there were opportunities to move more. Not necessarily exercise, just normal daily movement. Uni is not the same. It is sat for hours and hours on end in lectures. It is completely sedentary!
There are so many health benefits to being active!
A lot more time on my behind at uni has had a noticeable impact on my body. I wanted to share these changes with you so that you too many be able to relate your situation and then see what we can do about it.
- I’ve put on half a stone! That really sucks!
Like being a woman wasn’t bad enough when it comes to weight management, now I have an extra half a stone! And I know exactly why, I am more sedentary. My time studying means I sit for hours and hours and as a result my overall daily movement and energy expenditure has dropped!
- My hip flexors are stiffening up!
I love to stretch, yoga, pilates and be flexible. I enjoy the freedom that flexibility gives me in movement but I am stiffening up! My hip flexors and knees are feeling the impact of sitting for so long that is for sure!
- I miss the endorphins from moving more!
Having a chronic pain condition, movement helps to manage the pain. Getting a little out of breath and puffy throughout the day from a brisk walk or power march up the stairs or being up and about releases endorphins, reduces cortisol (a stress hormone) and makes you feel better. I am missing that for sure! The more I sit the more pain I have!
- I feel sluggish
I am feeling sluggish not just physically but also in my digestion and my mind too. After eating I feel heavier in the stomach and just urggggggghhhhhh. My brain just feels urggghhhhhhhhhhhh.
These are just a few of the changes happening. Not to mention what might also be happening on the inside!
Exercise & Physical Activity
I do exercise and it can look however you want it to. Just get out of breath and sweaty! The guidelines for exercise and physical activity are for 150 minutes of moderate activity of 75 minutes per week of vigerous activity PLUS 2 sessions of strength training and some flexibility training.
That doesn’t have to be just gym workouts!
Physical activity can fit into your day many ways and this is the thing that has mostly changed in my lifestyle that I need to combat. It might be easier when you have a sedentary job to use fitness classes as your way to get the necessary exercise to be in good health but there are lots of ways that this time quickly adds up! Having dedicated fitness classes is a valuable way to ensure I get strength training and cardiovascular fitness in each week.
- Yoga session = 60 minutes stretch and strength
- HiiT class = 27 minutes (vigerous)
- Aerobic class= 45 minutes (moderate)
- MetaPwr /Ignite or similar – 25 minutes (moderate plus strength)
- Swimming – I am a sea swimmer and love it! 60 minutes – getting changed afterwards in the cold takes strength so this might count toards my strength training in a week 🙂
- Walking fast from the car to uni – 10 minutes a day = 50 minutes a week
- Walking the stairs not the lift everyday and getting breathless = 10 minutes a day = 50 minutes a week
- Cleaning = 60 minutes (moderate)
- Parking at the farest part of the carpark for the weekly shop = 10 minutes
- Dog walk = 20 minutes a day = 80 minutes a week
- Playing aeroplanes with the kids = leg strength 15 minutes
- total = Over 350 minutes of physical activity or exercise that makes me hot and sweaty each week! That is completely do able right!
HOWEVER! This is what happened with uni……
- Park as close as possible as I rush madly in to get to lectures on time
- Online shopping!
- Quick 5 minute cleans
- Missed swimming 🙁
- Hubby does the dog walks
- Sitting studying
- Plus sitting in lectures
- Sitting on my breaks
- And sitting when I get home
- 60 minutes of yoga
- 1 Hiit class
- total = Not a lot! That is completely plausible right!
Now it is time to make the choice!
Life can be sedentary for me or I can make simple changes to be more physically active. And maybe if you find that your current work or lifestyle situation promotes a more sedentary lifestyle then manybe you could take a moment to plan how you will get yourself hot and sweaty during the week 🙂