Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Guest Post: Dr. Joan Vernikos on the Importance of Everday Movement

Today, I'm featuring a guest post by Dr. Joan Vernikos, author of Sitting Kills, Moving Heals. I reviewed her book yesterday (read my review). Now, she shares a some thoughts on the importance of movement in everyday life.

Are you worried about your health or that of someone dear to you? Look no further. Helpful solutions are at hand.

The deteriorating health epidemic in the US has been attributed to too much sitting. Modern technologies and the conveniences they have afforded have accelerated this trend by encouraging, sometimes requiring us to sit for long hours at a stretch. We sit in our cars or commuting, at our desk or meetings and in front of the TV or computer when we get back home. These long hours of sitting are now shown to increase the risk of breast and colon cancer.  They have been shown to lead to a broad variety of other health disorders as well. Regular traditional exercise alone has not reversed, nor prevented this downward trend in health in people who, like most Americans, sit all day long. So what is the solution?

Through my years of research as a life scientist at NASA I found that what happens to astronauts in space is the same as what happens to you and me as we sit for hours on end. Muscles and bones and other organs of those in space, age 10 times faster than they would normally on earth. The common link is gravity, or the lack of it. In space there is almost none, and when we sit for hours we no longer use it. In a world surrounded by bad news about our waistlines and well-being, I also discovered some really great news. The lesson I learned from my space research is that we need to use gravity in simple every day movement to interrupt our habit of continuous sitting. And though astronauts exercise strenuously in space, it doesn’t prevent the accelerated decline in health caused by living without gravity.

The good news is that anyone, at any age, can reverse the effects of sitting. It isn’t about exercising longer or more strenuously, nor about standing for long hours; but about interrupting sitting with a different kind of exertion — with low-intensity, gravity-effective, simple, natural, habitual movements made throughout the day in the course of active living. These are simple habits like standing up often, stand up during TV commercials or to get some water or make a call, walk, stretch, take the stairs instead of the elevator, roll out dough, dance, garden and reap the rewards, even fidget, pace or hang clothes out to dry if they’ll let you. It is about moving all day the way our grandparents moved when they did not have today’s conveniences. Though this may not sound ground-breaking, what was a revelation to me was that with only such small actions each day, all day, that make the most of the gravity that surrounds us, we can realize significantly better health, longer life and more easily maintain a healthy weight.

Gravity, has the bad reputation of the enemy that drags us down, so a book in praise of gravity is counter-intuitive at best. And yet that’s what Sitting Kills, Moving Heals is about. Use gravity and it will keep you young and healthy. I wrote this book to share these practical, natural solutions with you all.

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