To Be Or Not To Be A Busy Body
Posted on May 17, 2016 | By Madeleine Hackney | 1 response
Posting for Dr. Hackney today is Sheneka Winston, a certified fitness trainer and MDT-trained fitness specialist (Parkinson’s-specific training). She teaches the Parkinson’s Movement class at the East Lake YMCA.
As kids, these are phrases we’ve likely heard from our mothers at some point in time. Some of us would obey and be still for a set amount of time, but the joy of moving–running, climbing, jumping–would eventually overrule motherly advice and we’d soon find ourselves with arms outstretched and spinning in a circle as fast as we could. The simple joy of interacting with the world kept us in constant motion. But things change as we mature. The responsibilities of adulthood take precedence, and the movements once considered fun are replaced by more sedentary activities. Desk jobs. Commutes. Surfing the internet. Watching TV. A typical US adult spends nine to 10 hours sitting everyday.  Sadly, many Americans don’t fit exercise into their schedule, which means their bodies are nearly always in a sedentary state. With this level of inactivity, even a 30- or 60-minute workout would not be enough to counteract the effects of prolonged sitting. 
Unfortunately, long periods of sitting can have an adverse effect on your health, increasing the risk of heart disease, obesity, chronic neck and back pain, digestive issues, muscle degeneration and poor blood circulation in your legs, which leads to aching or cramping. Sitting for more than 8 hours a day has also been associated with a 90 percent increased risk of Type 2 diabetes.  Another adverse effect of prolonged sitting coupled with less-than- social behavior (such as working at a computer) could lead to higher risk of stress and anxiety. 
The good news is that it’s not just that extended periods of sitting is bad for you; the danger is in the amount of time sitting coupled with the absence of movement while sitting. Our bodies were fashioned to move…and when we stop moving, it’s like telling your body it’s time to shut down – permanently! According to Melvyn Hillsdon from the University of Exeter, “any stationary posture where energy expenditure is low may be detrimental to health.” So what can you do about this?
Become a “busy body.”
I’m not referring to the meddling, nosy type of busy body, but instead, a “get your body busy moving” type of busy body.
Studies have shown that small, fidgety movements, like finger-drumming and toe-tapping, is one way to offset the unpleasant health effects of prolonged sitting; however, this is just enough to increase mortality; not health. More research is needed with more defined and controlled fidgeting metrics to confirm findings. 
Research has shown that after sitting for 6 straight hours, blood flow to your legs is significantly reduced. A 10-minute walk was shown to reverse the detrimental consequences of prolonged sitting. 
So a simple walk can help, but how can you combat the other health effects (obesity, diabetes, etc…). Simply get moving every few minutes. That means taking frequent breaks during the day to help lower blood sugar, reduce cholesterol buildup and even assist in weight loss. One item that I’ve found helpful for my clients is wearable technology…. or even a pedometer. Set a goal of 7,000 steps per day. As you reach that goal on a regular basis, increase the step goal by 1,000.
Here are some ways to accomplish your daily step goal while at work:
• Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
• Walk to a coworker’s office instead of sending an email.
• Stand up and pace while on a conference call.
• Go for a walk at lunch.
• Park your car further away from the entrance.
• Set your wearable to remind you to get up and move.
• Put a reminder in your desk calendar, email reminder, sticky note, etc… to move and treat it as if it were a scheduled work meeting.
But what if you have absolutely no time to leave your desk? There are still ways to combat sitting with these exercises:
• Push Ups: Place both hands on your desk (only if it is solid enough to support your weight) or a wall, walk your feet back to a 45-degree angle and do 10 push-ups. This is a great exercise for strengthening your arms.
• Shoulder Blade Squeezes: This move helps to improve hunched posture. Sit up straight and pretend that you’re holding a pencil between your shoulder blades, squeeze them together for 10 seconds. Release (drop the pencil) then repeat 5 times.
• Chair Squats: Standing 6” in front of your chair (preferably one without wheels and doesn’t roll), lower yourself down until your butt hits the edge, then stand back up. This is a great exercise for stability and increased muscle strength.
• Abs and Legs: While sitting in a chair, lift and straighten your leg and hold for 10 seconds. Alternate pointing your toe and flexing your foot. Lower and repeat with other leg. For more intensity, lift both legs simultaneously.
As a fitness professional, no exercise is ever complete without a good stretch. Stretching exercises not only combat the effects of prolonged sitting but can also help ease stress and keep muscles from becoming tightened and clenched.
• Sit tall in your chair, stretch both arms over head while taking a deep breath and reach for the ceiling, alternating extending the right hand, then left hand, higher.
• Let your head roll so that your right ear nearly touches your right shoulder. Hold for 10 seconds, then repeat on the left side.
• Sitting forward, turn your head to the right and your torso to the left. Hold and repeat on the other side.
• To stretch your back, place your hands on the desk and hold onto it. Slowly push your chair back until your head is between your arms and you’re looking at the floor. Slowly pull yourself back in again.
Start today by making a commitment to yourself to move more – whether it’s going for a walk, exercising in the office or at home while watching television – in order to keep your energy expenditure levels up to combat the ills of sustained sitting.
References: CLICK HERE to view complete references to published research cited above.
Dr. Madeleine E. Hackney, Ph.D, is a Research Health Scientist at the Atlanta VA Center for Visual and Neurocognitive Rehabilitation and an Assistant professor of Medicine in the division of General Medicine and Geriatrics at the Emory School of Medicine. She holds a Ph.D. in Movement Science from Washington University and a BFA in Dance from NYU, Tisch School of the Arts and has also been an American Council on Exercise certified personal trainer since 2000. Dr. Hackney’s extensive research interests include inquiry into challenging exercise programs–traditional exercise, Tai Chi and partnered tango classes–designed to improve physical function and quality of life in people with PD, older adults and those with serious mental illness. In 2014, she co-founded MDT Education Solutions, which has trained dozens of fitness and allied health professionals how to develop and lead safe, evidence-based exercise programs for people with PD at all stages of the disease, including almost all instructors in the PD Gladiators Metro Atlanta Fitness Network (including the YMCA of Metro Atlanta).