Tuesday, July 5, 2016

A Healthy Sit (ALS Fitness)

Back in high school we had to use those universal one-size-fits-all desks. You know the ones: everything all hooked together; the writing surface onto the chair onto the book tray underneath. To sit down we’d slide-in from left to right and the “convenient” flat surface for taking notes was on the right side as well.

Too bad I was left-handed.

Never-the-less I adapted, by twisting my body to fit the desk while others around me - - in the right-handed desks - - also slumped and slouched their way through the school day. We all grew up but, still slump and slouch and - - still spend too much time sitting.

According to the health and fitness gurus, sitting is the new health hazard of the modern world. We’re told that too much sitting causes weight gain, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, as well as neck and back pain, weakened muscles, lethargy and plain old foggy thinking. 

The experts advise us to get up and move. Take a walk. Use a standing desk or don’t sit on a chair at all - - sit on a yoga ball instead!

But for many of us living with ALS (or similar health conditions), sitting on a yoga ball or taking a walk are no longer options. We spend the day fully knowing we’re doing something unhealthy - - but have no other choice than to do it anyway. 

Don’t lose hope! Because I maintain that no matter what is making you spend your day in a seated position - - you can sit healthy; just by following these three steps:

Use the Correct Sitting Posture

If you think “correct” means perching on the edge of the chair and forcing your back ramrod straight - - you’re mistaken. A proper sit involves scooting the hips all the way to the back of the chair. Knees can fall open and our back is resting, yes resting, on the back to the chair.

Let’s watch Dana Davis, from Sonoma Body Balance - - with an excellent demonstration:

It seems that the only place we take great pains to make what we’re sitting on fit our bodies is when we’re behind the wheel of a car. Before driving away we adjust everything! We need to be just as serious about every chair we sit on. The seat height, seat length and back area may need extra help from a cushion, pad or even a book placed under each foot.

Esther Gokhale, from The Gokhale Method, calls her technique "StackSitting" and here she shows us exactly how to do it.

Build in Breaks

James Levine, MD, inventor of the treadmill desk recommends taking a 2-minute break from sitting every 30 minutes. I keep a small timer near my computer so the hours don’t sneak up on me. Every time it goes off, I follow-through and perform a few simple movements such as:

  • Sliding hips forward to the front edge of the chair.
  • Look up. Look side to side and all the way behind.
  • Reach arms up and pretend to climb a rope; hand-over-hand.
  • Stretch legs forward and flutter kick feet.

If you need a few more ideas, just follow along any one of these four routines on my Youtube channel. Just click on the photo:     
 ALS Chair Exercise

Un-kink the Knots

Lucky for me in high school, my after-school activity was gymnastics which helped my body un-kink from my hours spent sitting in a bad position.

It helped me to stretch and move in opposite directions from my day’s posture, something I continue to do today. Here are a few of my essential anti-sitting stretches. Ideally, they’re done on the floor but if the floor is out of the question for you, do them lying on your bed mattress instead:

1.      Roll onto your stomach and prop yourself up on your elbows. Hold for a few minutes, allowing the entire front of your body to feel a gentle stretch.
2.      Lay flat on the stomach, chin on your hands. Bend legs at the knees and alternate kicking heels up and down.
3.      Prop yourself up on the elbows again and slowly raise and lower your chin. Then chin towards right shoulder and left. Try a full circle right, then left.

Original Strength has several great videos demonstrating variations of these exercises. Just click on the video title to watch:

it’s your turn!
Try it...
You CAN sit healthy

Dagmar Munn
ALS and Wellness Blogger

“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” 
Thomas A. Edison 

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