Is Sitting is the New Smoking? Is Strong is the New Skinny?

Quick Tips

Spend a few minutes scrolling through your news feed on Facebook, you’ll inevitably come across someone posting spirited words of inspiration.

Diagram A:

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Diagram B:

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Very spirited posts indeed.

Let’s start with “strong is the new skinny”…

I recently read a Huffington Post article that made a great number of points about the concept that “strong is the new skinny”.  I have to say that I agree with many of the points made in the article.  I felt that the author made some really good points that seemed to be deeply tied to her preferences.

I’ve never preached skinny.  I actually think that “thinning out”, “getting skinny”, “slimming down” are all as annoying as “strong is the new skinny”.  Strong definitely is strong.

What’s even cooler than saying that “strong is strong” is building up a person’s confidence to the point that they are about to explode with ambition, drive and the pursuit of their own form of greatness.  Whether “getting skinny” or “getting strong” is the path to jump starting a person’s legacy, it doesn’t matter to me.  Use whatever fuel gets you moving.

I once trained a 12-year old hockey player in Detroit, MI, who will remain nameless.  At 12 years of age, most males are just starting to figure out their bodies, muscles, etc.  They are on the brink of puberty, so this makes sense.

This young man was one of my favorite training sessions of the week, by far. I always looked forward to working this kid because I could tell that he didn’t have much confidence, and his Mom- after a few training sessions- praised my efforts by telling me that her son really looked up to me as a coach.  I praised him every chance I got.  High-five’s, knuckles, shouting and clapping when he succeeded was my formula.    As with any enjoyable client, his strongest trait was that he listened.  He was coachable.  He may have been smaller and weaker than other kids his age, but he was willing to listen to my advice and follow through with my suggestions.

A few months down the road, after never missing a scheduled training session, he walked into our training center smiling from ear to ear.  “I made the Peewee A team (hockey), I am the strongest on the team and a girl at school said I have big muscles”.

Naturally, I laughed, particularly at the end part of his comments.  I was ridiculously proud of this kid.  His entire demeanor had changed over a course of months.  Not necessarily from an introvert to an extrovert, but definitely from a kid that lacked confidence to a kid that realized he could accomplish whatever he wanted if he stuck to the recipe and did the work.

Strong may not be the new skinny, but building strength, both physically and mentally can change a person in a matter of weeks.  You’d be surprised at home many people, kids or grown-ass adults have displayed a new-found confidence from improving that strength, ability to move, performance and most recently… their composition of their body.

So, I really don’t care what you choose to refer to “it” as,  but in this situation, strength is confidence.

 

Next, “Is sitting the new smoking”?

Kelly Starrett thinks that it is, and while Kelly Starrett isn’t god, he is certainly a massively influential face in the movement world right now.  Right up there with Ido Portal.

The truth is that I don’t think that comparing sitting to smoking is really a good comparison.  I understand the message that people are aiming to convey by saying that over-indulging in sitting is kind of like smoking, but sitting is sitting, and smoking is smoking.

Everyone needs to sit at some point.  Quite honestly, I enjoy sitting.  It usually means that I am reading a book, listening to music, watching the waves roll in on a lake, watching NHL hockey (as I am right now) or writing.  All great activities that I thoroughly enjoy.

I don’t punish myself for sitting and nor should you.  However, I also don’t sit 8+ hours day for my career.  That fact, makes me consciously accepting of times that I sit.  I feel that I earned the right to sit, rest my feet, relax and reboot.

The magnitude of the negative effects that sitting has on a person should be related to each person and their unique situation.

If you’re a person that remains seated and stationary during most of the waking day, you probably need to be more conscious of your sitting.  You probably need to move more.  You probably need to consciously focus on an improved posture for sitting.

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Photo credit: bodybuilding.com

You probably need to consider a standing desk (if you can have one where you work or at home), you probably need to take more walking breaks throughout the day.  You also probably need to be more aware of the structural changes taking place with your body as a result of such prolonged periods of sitting.

If you sit too much, you just need to be aware.  Don’t get compulsive about it, just be aware of the events that are taking place as a result of sitting so much.

Also, if you are sitting for prolonged periods, understand that you need to be consistently diligent about off-setting the effects of sitting.  Here are some simple things that you can do:

1)  Open up your thoracic spine using the tennis ball peanut.

2)  Yoga (donate 30-60 minutes of your time, you’ll feel great after)

3)  Rapid circulation (aka:  exercise)

4)  Foam roll aggressively and then hold this stretch…

Although sitting affects us all differently (just like getting punched in the head affects us all differently), the rules of unwinding and off-setting the negative adaptations of sitting can be somewhat generalized and still provide tremendous benefit and relief.  As I have said in the past, our bodies are extremely complicated and yet at the same time, extremely predictable.

So is sitting bad?  For some people, yes, it’s a slow road to a whole host of future issues.  But sitting is not evil and there is no need to pull your hair out if you sit down for a while.  Just be aware of how much you are moving around, and do you best to increase it or sustain that movement for the long haul.

Smoking, on the other hand, is terrible.  I cannot think of one benefit that anyone receives from bucking a dart.  I have an orthopedic surgeon colleague that was telling me a story not too long ago about a patient that he saw in his clinic.  This particular patient was in severe pain from bone on bone knee articulation.  Obviously, the average person is supposed to have nice lubricated cushion of meniscus, but this lady had worn through her cushion.  So, bone on bone grinding was taking its place.

Surgeons do extensive health checks for any patient that is a candidate for total joint replacement.  Upon conducting a health check on this lady, it was identified that she was a heavy smoker.  By heavy, I am talking about a pack of cigarettes per day, if not more.  This is common for orthopedic surgeons to see during consults.

After taking this patient’s knee through range of motion tests, exhaustive questioning about symptoms and an evaluation of her x-rays, the doctor told the patient that she was in fact over-due for a knee replacement.

“I would like to see you again in a week for another series of tests so we can properly schedule your surgery”, the surgeon told her.

“Another visit?!  I can’t afford that!”, the patient responded.

“Why is that?  It’s important to make sure that you’re able to make it through the surgery, it’s in your best interest ma’am”, said the doctor.

“I won’t be able to buy my cigarettes if I have to drive down to the clinic again”, the patient said.

The irony in this story is that the patient had terrible bone quality from smoking, diabetes and no meniscus in her knee from her lack of activity and her weight.

But she just couldn’t give up those cigarettes.

Sitting is not smoking and smoking is not sitting.

 

 

Cheers to moving more, sitting less and the pursuit of your greatest self!

KG

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