— By Annette Cashel
I used to have a “proper” job. For many years, I worked as a Marketing Manager, chained to my desk for hours at an end. Don’t get me wrong: I loved my job, but my body did not, and things started to go horribly wrong in my late 20s.
It started out with carpal tunnel syndrome. I “fixed” that with physio. Then I got a knee cartilage issue. I “fixed” that with fascial rolling. Then, I developed degenerative disc disease in my lower back. I “fixed” that with pilates. In fact, I was so impressed with pilates that I quit my job and re-trained as a Stott pilates teacher. Fast forward a few years and I developed a severe nerve issue and a neck fusion operation was suggested as the only solution. I was starting to get mildly irritated to say the least! And confused… I couldn’t understand why I was getting these health issues. I didn’t smoke or drink, I wasn’t over-weight, my stress was manageable, I was a Stott Pilates teacher for crying out loud! I lived an “active lifestyle”…. or so I thought!
Faced with this (to me, very scary) operation, I decided to look at the big picture as to why I was getting all these health issues. (Not life-threatening, I grant you, but enough to seriously affect my quality of life and mental health). I realised that actually I wasn’t that “active” at all. Sure, I dutifully worked out at the gym three times a week and walked at the weekend, but I was sedentary the rest of the time . And, it turns out, the rest of the time was what really mattered!
Putting it into perspective; even if you work out for an hour every day, you’re still only approx. 6% more active than someone who never exercises because that one hour workout (great as it is!) amounts to only 1 hour out of 16 potentially active hours, (assuming you sleep for 8 hours). The lack of activity the “rest of the time” is now seen as a separate risk to not exercising, and is associated with a whole host of serious diseases incl. cardiovascular disease, diabetes type 2, obesity, certain cancers and even premature death!
“The pandemic of physical inactivity is associated with a range of chronic diseases and early death.”– The Lancet
That’s why people are no longer categorised as just being either active or inactive (aka the couch potato type). Nope. Since 2010, there is a third category; the active couch potato, and, you guessed it … that was me! ME, the fitness trainer and pilates teacher!! It was a shocking realisation and a true wake-up call, which led me to continue my research into sitting disease with even more fervour!
Thankfully I stumbled upon the inspiring work of Katy Bowman, M.S., www.NutritiousMovement.com and started to add movement into my everyday life. Frequently, and with variety. And my body thrived. So much so that I was able to avoid the neck fusion operation and all the pain/heartache associated with it. That’s worth repeating: I was able to avoid the neck fusion operation. Just by moving more frequently, and with variety.
I was hooked! I re-trained as a Restorative Exercise Specialist and became passionate about adding movement, not exercise, into my everyday life. In practice, this means adding little bouts of movement spread throughout the day, everyday. For example, it could be using a standing desk for part of the day or sitting on the floor sometimes or stretching calves while washing the dishes. It’s as simple as that. No gym membership, no change of clothes, no expensive equipment, no reminders or additional time required! I’ve just set up my daily life and my home to be as movement-friendly as possible (see photos). To be honest, at this stage, it would be harder NOT to move in my home!
Main takeaway: If you hate exercise, that’s fine. Be sure to add some movement into your daily life. See below for ideas. If you love exercise, that’s fine too. Keep doing it! You still need to add some movement into your daily life. See below for the same ideas!
Looking back, that neck fusion scare was the wake-up call I needed to finally make long-term, meaningful changes to my everyday movements. You might not be able to quit your “proper” job, but you can still add movement into your everyday life, and stop being an active couch potato, like me!
Author: Annette Cashel
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