Sitting Is The New Smoking?

I’ve been hearing a lot lately about the ‘sitting disease.’  It’s basically the term used by many health professionals to describe our current state of sitting down all day and the health consequences that come of it.

We’ve become so sedentary that 30 minutes a day at the gym may not counteract the detrimental effects of 8, 9 or 10 hours of sitting.  Genevieve Healy, PhD

That’s pretty crazy.  Take a moment right now to think about how much time you spend sitting down, including commuting to and from work, watching television and working in front of a computer?  I was shocked when I did my rough estimate and I was at almost 12 hours of sitting a day!  I consider myself to be quite an active person but my day job keeps me sitting for long periods of time. 

So what does sitting all day do to our body?  According to WebMD, “sitting for a long time causes muscles to burn less fat and blood to flow more sluggishly. Both can increase the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and other problems.”  My number one complaint from my yoga students is tight shoulders and back pain, which are also a result of sitting for long periods.  But here’s the bright side, since we recognize the problem we can develop a strategy to help offset some of the effects.  I brainstormed and came up with 5 ways we can all get out of our chairs!

1.   Find a trigger event: If you work in an office, your trigger event can be a phone or doorbell ringing or getting an email. Whenever you hear it/receive it, stand up.  You don’t have to leave your desk but do some neck/shoulder rolls and lift your legs a bit. Find an event that happens often enough to get you moving.

2.  Set a timer on your phone: I use the Alarmed App (another fun App!) each day to remind me to meditate. I’ve now added a reminder to stand up every 15 minutes.  Even if you aren’t able to get up every time the alarm sounds, it will remind you to get moving soon.

3.  Commercial Breaks:  While you are enjoying your favorite shows, stand up for the entire duration of the commercial break.  Take a walk around your living room or do some easy stretches.  If you’re watching a recorded program, don’t fast forward through the commercials and stand up!

4.  Social Media:  Instead of sitting down each time you check Facebook/Instagram/Twitter, etc. make a point to stand up. This could also be your trigger event if you are checking your accounts often.  But please watch your posture. Try to stand up straight and hold your phone up to your face, don’t force your neck down.

5.  Buy or make a stand-up desk:  Stand-up desks have really grown in popularity.  Many of them allow you to adjust the height of your computer depending on whether you prefer to stand or sit.  Some people even combine these desks with a treadmill to slowly walk all day as well.  It’s been shown to increase productivity and boost the immune system.

Many professionals say that it doesn’t matter how long we stand but the frequency of doing it that’s important.   I’m making a promise to myself to really make an effort each day to get moving and I invite you to do the same.

P.S. I stood up at least 6 times while writing this blog post. I'm inspired!

 

Healthy Travels

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On a recent trip to San Diego, where I traveled for 16 hours on 4 planes, I saw a sign on a kiosk that read “Treat Yourself Today. You Deserve It.” Underneath the sign were a bunch of different candy bars: Twix, 3 Musketeers, Snickers, etc.  For those of you who follow me on Instagram (@omthemoment), you know that I live a plant based lifestyle and believe in honoring oneself on a daily basis…which basically means making your best mind, body and soul choices every day.  And I don't believe that 'treating' yourself to a food-like candy bar is something your body deserves or needs. 

Traveling can be stressful all around. Have you ever gotten sick right after you travel? Or does your plumbing not work correctly when out of town?  It’s because we stray from our routines or we adopt this ‘hey I’m on vacation’ type of attitude and abandon the nourishment our bodies need. When you fail to plan, you plan to fail so here are my tips on how you can travel healthy on the go-go.

Ditch the purse, bring a backpack: I’m usually carrying tons of books and magazines for the flight so I bring a backpack with me. It serves to house all of my reading literature AND you can load it up with food.  It easily fits under the seat in front of you so you can access it whenever you need it.

Bring an empty reusable water bottle: Fill it up at a water fountain once you pass security.  Because of the low humidity on the plane, dehydration is a cause for concern.  Try to drink as often as possible.

Fruit it up:  Buy a ton of fruit, cut it up and store it in gallon size plastic bags. Fruit is the easiest and most accessible food to snack on and you feel light and satisfied after eating it.  Plus, many fruits are loaded with Vitamin C and antioxidants which allow your body to fight off those pesky germs lurking around. I pack a small paring knife (in my checked bag of course), extra plastic bags and a portable cutting board so I’m able to cut up fruit in my hotel room. I load up my backpack each day with fruit just in case I can’t find any healthy food options.

Go Nuts: Nuts are a great source of protein and full of fiber to keep you fuller, longer. I like to make my own trail mix with sunflower seeds, cashews and walnuts or you could buy some at the market. Try to buy them raw and unsalted without the chocolate (we are trying to be healthy, right?). You could also bring some granola bars like Kind Bars (aim for under 5 ingredients and nothing that you can’t pronounce). The key is to not allow yourself to get hungry.  Once you feel starved, it’s easy to make poor choices.  So snack away!

Hot Tea, Please:  I love to have hot tea on the plane because I’m usually cold and it feels like a treat, so I bring peppermint or green tea bags with me.  It goes great with the mixed nuts or granola bar. Just ask the flight attendant for some hot water/lemon and you are good to go. 

The more you know:  What I’ve found to keep me motivated on my health journey is to always be reading something informational/inspirational.  On the plane, I read Thrive: The Vegan Nutrition Guide to Optimal Performance by Brendan Brazier and Meat is for P*ssies: A How-To Guide For Dudes Who Want To Get Fit, Kick Ass and Take Names by John Joseph. If you haven’t heard of either of these guys, it’s worth looking them up. 

Don’t Hate, Meditate: As soon as I get to my seat, I put in my earphones and open my meditation app.  I’m not such a good flyer so I prepare myself mentally before the flight takes off. Sometimes I meditate well into take-off and calmly fall asleep.  It’s the best.

Excuse Me-Pardon Me: When I have the choice, I select the aisle seat.  I usually have to visit the restroom a few times during the flight but I mostly need to stretch my legs.  It’s a good idea to move around especially on longer flights but if you don’t want to be that person climbing over folks, you can do wrist/ankle/neck rolls or alternate legs to chest,  anything to get the blood moving. Here are some other suggestions.

Engage:  I’ve met some pretty interesting people on flights.  I encourage you to engage and listen to someone else’s life story.  Not only will it make the flight more enjoyable but you could learn a thing or two. 

Journal: I keep a journal but I don’t write in it every day.  Actually, when I journaled recently on the plane, I noticed I hadn’t written since July.  But that’s OK.  I like to journal when I travel because a. I have the time and b. it’s great to preserve the memories of your trip.  So if you don’t have a journal, get one for your trip and write away!  Journaling is extremely cathartic. There is just something about putting pen to paper that allows true introspection. 

And that’s all folks! These are my quick and easy tips for keeping yourself healthy on the go-go.  If you have any tips that you would like to share, please share them in the comments below. 

Healthy Travels!

Stop, Breathe & Think

Meditation is not a means to an end, it is both the means and the end.
— J. Krishnamurti

Have you noticed that every year there is a buzz word or phrase that somehow gets adopted by the masses and before you know it, becomes a part of our vernacular like “it is what it is” or “selfie” or “bootylicious” (seriously, it’s in the dictionary).  The term I’ve noticed lately is ‘hacking’ as in how to hack your life, diet, exercise routine, work day, etc.  According to Wikipedia, “life hacking refers to any trick, shortcut, skill, or novelty method that increases productivity and efficiency, in all walks of life.”

My life hack comes in the form of meditation.  I know it sounds weird that I’m looking for a quick fix in this area since the actual act of meditation requires you to slow down and tune in but, I’ve learned that when I want to commit to something, I need to find what works best for me.  From my yoga training and many books I’ve read on the subject, it was always advised to work up to 20 minutes or more of meditation a day.  With many trials and errors, I realized that a. yoga shouldn’t be stressful and b. I need to do what works best for me. So, despite meditation being an age old tradition, I found my hack in an App.

It’s called Stop, Breathe and Think.  I mean the name alone gets you into the meditation frame of mind. After you create an account and they walk you through the basics, you’re given options for all sorts of meditations based on the way you are feeling: happy, sad, anxious, nervous, etc.  These guided meditations are short and easy to follow.  My favorite is called ‘Body Scan’ where it walks you through bringing awareness to every part of your body.  After 8 minutes, you are completely relaxed and in the zen zone. And the more you meditate, the more you're rewarded with trophies and words of encouragement.  It's your zen cheerleader encouraging you along the way.

I believe that the meditation benefits come with consistency and not with how long you do it.  Brainstorm today on when you can sneak in some time to meditate, maybe in your car before or after work, during your lunch break or as soon as you get home, hiding in your closet. Whatever works best for you, make it happen. Don't worry about if you are doing it right. If you can't sit up that long, then lay down. If your mind wanders, focus on the guide.  Eventually a sense of calm will come over you. Allow yourself to just BE.

Hack your meditation practice today by downloading Stop, Breathe and Think for free in the App store.  If you don't have an iPhone, search for a similar app to help get your started.  Happy Meditating!

P.S. If you have any life hacks that you would like to share, I’m all ears (or eyes)…leave your comments below :)