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I was dying.
My back was excruciating in pain.
My eyes were going in and out of focus.
I was hopping on and off sentences as I read the emails on my computer screen.
Though I continued to sit there, 5 hours in, trucking as hard as I could towards the time when I would be set back free in to a world of movement.
As many of you, this was the moment when it became apparent that I was entrenched deep in the stronghold of a sedentary lifestyle that was wrecking havoc on my health.
Despite all the special ergonomic gadgets I had set up at my workstation, I sat their in pain as a silent killer was seeding lasting damage in to my body as a result of sitting down all day.
You know what I am talking about.
You are living this life right now as I speak.
Maybe you know, maybe you don’t…but sitting in the same place for 5 or more hours (whether it is studying for the FE Exam or at work) has the health equivalent of smoking a pack and a quarter of cigarettes, according to Dr. David Agus.
Read that again.
You, and me, sitting where we are right now, for 5 or more hours has the same health implications as smoking a pack and a quarter of cigarettes!
This is real life, this is where we are.
How has it come to this?
Well, I guess…it doesn’t matter at this point…what does matter is that we take action to change it’s devastating affects.
Would you consciously smoke a pack and a quarter of cigarettes a day?
Would you even smoke one cigarette?
The research shows us exactly what is happening to us right now as we read these sentences.
It is a known quantity.
To ignore it is to consciously accept the health complications that come about with it.
The good news, we don’t need to do that, there is one simple fix that will offset all of these complications.
It’s so routine. It’s so harmless. right?
We wake up. Take a shower. Get dressed. Make coffee. Get in the car and drive. Sit at our desk. Complete what needs to be completed. get paid. pay our mortgage. buy groceries. go to sleep. rinse and repeat.
But nothing in their states what we are doing to our health in following this routine…it’s a silent disease that many of us aren’t even recognizing.
Here, let’s take a look one more time at this routine and see if we can’t expose it.
We wake up. Take a shower. Get dressed. Make coffee. Get in the car and drive. Sit at our desk. SLOWLY DIE. Complete what needs to be completed. SLOWLY DIE. get paid. pay our mortgage. buy groceries. go to sleep. rinse and repeat.
There it is…do you see it?
How can sitting behind that computer screen really be killing us?
Peter T. Katzmarzyk, Ph.D., states:
“Even within physically active individuals, there was a strong association between sitting and risk of mortality…This is an important observation because it suggests that high amounts of sitting cannot be compensated for with occasional leisure time physical activity even if the amount exceeds the current minimum physical activity recommendations.”
We get plenty of practice at sitting. And despite the fact that you hit the gym after work, or eat healthy, it’s not possible to offset the damages sitting for prolonged periods of time is doing on your health.
Over time the damage begins to reveal itself…through things like low energy expenditure, slower metabolism, compromised posture, back and spine injuries, reduced social skills, loneliness or depression, metabolic syndrome, chronic pain, rheumatic disorders, obesity, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.
So what can we do to safeguard ourselves from such devastating complications?
Recognize it. Accept it. And be intentional about hedging it right at the roots, during the day, right at the point of attack.
What’s this have to do with passing the FE Exam and becoming a Professional Engineer?
I can get deep here, but I am going to keep it simple.
Why do you want to become a PE?
I am sure it has to do something with being more fulfilled, providing for your family, being challenged, and/or leaving a legacy for your kids.
Society continues to sell us on the script that in order to reach these lofty goals of ours, that we need to mindlessly sacrifice our time and freedom to ensure we are on the right track towards that optimized life.
We listen, and often submit day in day our for our jobs in hopes that one day some amazing turn of events will transpire and usher us to that lifestyle we have always envisioned and wanted.
But here’s the deal, if you don’t take care of you, there is going to be no taking care of others.
Slowly dying as you strive to become a Professional Engineer isn’t going to bring you what you want and it certainly isn’t going to make it easier if you have to deal with all the collateral damage that comes from living a sedentary lifestyle.
Let me repeat those side affects again…low energy expenditure, slower metabolism, compromised posture, back and spine injuries, reduced social skills, loneliness or depression, metabolic syndrome, chronic pain, rheumatic disorders, obesity, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.
Sound worth it?
Not too me.
So what is the healthiest way to go about your workday?
What can you do to change your style starting today to give you the biggest benefit?
Stand up every 25 minutes.
Our bodies operate on a natural ultradian rhythm. Research has shown the benefits of simply standing and contracting your muscles and relieving the strain on your mind in harmony with this natural rhythm.
These benefits can be felt both physically and mentally.
Think about your mind and body as a gas tank.
If you fill up prior to the tank running on fumes, you will continue smoothly along your journey, right?
If you push that tank until it’s dry as a bone, you are going to end up on the side of the road with your thumb up looking for someone or something to pick you up.
Sound familiar? That’s the reality of what we are working with here.
Jack Groppel, a sports scientist from Florida State University, developed and implemented a pilot program at the New Balance shoe company in Boston titled Organizations in MOTION.
This program, and research project, aimed to quantify the benefits of employees (and employers) implementing simple physical movements in to their daily routines.
The basic framework of the program encouraged 750 employees to integrate some form of physical activity into their routines every 30 minutes.
Of those who completed the post program survey, 53% said they increased their level of activity at work and 42% reported heightened engagement and concentration.
So as we become more and more connected to our work and submit more and more control of our health to our professions…how the heck do we go about standing every 25 minutes?
I’ve preached the importance of Quick Wins as we look to establish sustainable momentum in our FE Exam study sessions and a Quick Win is exactly what I would suggest in moving you towards standing every 20 minutes.
Get your iPhone out and set the timer for 25 minutes.
When that timer is up, stand up…do something for 5 minutes.
It really doesn’t take much to counterattack the warheads that are launched through a sedentary lifestyle.
Do a push up, walk around the office, do a couple air squats…just stand.
As you begin to gain momentum and settle in to your new healthy (and productive routine), start to implement other small changes that will benefit you both physically and mentally. Do things like:
- Skip the elevator and take the stairs at work
- Suggest (and hold) “walking meetings”
- Sit on an exercise ball at work instead of your chair.
- Talk to your workmate in person rather than sending emails and/or calling them on the phone.
- Take the “long road” to the restroom.
- Get a standing desk and/or stand while working at your desk occasionally.
- Do small stretches or use the foam roller a couple times during your day.
The bottom line:
There really is no getting around what the research is telling us about the way we are going about our day to day life.
We are working longer while taking fewer breaks and it’s taking a toll on our health.
Maybe it’s silent now, but the affects are going to be felt sooner or later, and at that point, it may be too late.
Now Here’s What I Want You To Do
The next time you sit down at work or to begin your studies for the FE Exam, take a second and think about what you can do to ensure you maintain movement on a consistent basis.
As a matter of fact, let’s do that right now.
What do you do during your studies or while at work to make sure you mind and body remain in tip top shape? Share it in the comments.