For most of us, sitting at a desk for seven or eight hours a day is a daily necessity. Coupled with the one to two hours that we also tend to spend travelling to and from that desk, not to mention the couch time we log once we’re home, our lives have become undeniably (and increasingly) sedentary.
While sitting is certainly more comfortable than standing for extended periods of time, it poses many risks to our health. Dr. James A. Levine of the Mayo Clinic identified some of those downsides in an expert answers segment, listing a nearly 50% increased risk of death from any cause as easily the most staggering warning.
The best and most compact resource I’ve come across to explain the risks of prolonged and regular sitting is the animated video “Why Sitting is Bad For You.” Based on the Ted Ed talk of Murat Dalkilinç, a physiotherapist with extensive experience in sports injuries and persistent pain, this five minute video paints a frightening picture of our daily lives.
While sitting may be difficult, if not impossible, to avoid, there are things we can do to mitigate its harms. Here are 6 stretches we can all begin to incorporate today to help protect against the effects of prolonged sitting:
1. Glute Bridge
HOW TO: Lie on your back with your knees bent to approximately 45 degrees and your feet hip distance apart. Your lower back should be flat on the floor. Drive through your heels as you contract your glutes and push your hips off the ground, making sure not to arch your lower back, then lower your hips back to the ground.
BENEFIT: Glute bridges, along with many other lower-body exercises, are great for hip extension — the opposite of what we do while sitting. By extending our hips as much as possible in a safe exercise, we counteract the negative effects of sitting by stretching out and moving our muscles in the opposite direction.
HOW TO: Stand with your feet hip distance apart. Engage your core as you push your hips back and down as if preparing to sit down. Drive everything through your heels as you come down and return to a standing position, ensuring that your knees do not push forward past your toes when coming down and that your back stays flat throughout.
BENEFIT: Squats offer similar benefits to the glute bridge, but engage the muscles differently. Combined, they provide a comprehensive stretch/exercise.
3. Shoulder Opener
HOW TO: Place a backwards facing chair approximately three feet in front of you (adjusting as necessary depending on your height). Stand with your feet hip distance apart. Lift your arms toward the sky, then slowly bend forward at your waist, grabbing the back of the chair with your outstretched arms.
BENEFIT: Most of us sit at least slightly hunched over. Shoulder openers counteract this hunched position and open up the shoulders.
HOW TO: Lay on your stomach with your arms beside you, then bring your hands in line with your chest. With your hands pressed firmly against the ground, slowly bring your upper body off the floor while pressing your lower body into the ground through to the tips of your toes. Extend and hold for a few breaths before slowly lowering back down.
BENEFIT: Cobra pose is a remarkable yoga stretch that strengthens your back while simultaneously stretching your chest and hip flexors. When done correctly, it essentially moves your muscles in the opposite direction of a sitting position.
5. Trunk Rotation
HOW TO: Lie flat on your back with your arms and legs apart in a relaxed state. Slowly bring your knees to your chest. Let them both slowly fall to one side while your torso stays neutral. Hold for a few cycles of breath and then move to the other side.
BENEFIT: This move fully stretches out your lower back, which is often the most negatively affected by prolonged sitting.
6. Pigeon Stretch
HOW TO: Starting in downward facing dog, bend one knee and place it on your mat slightly wider than your hip. Fold forward over your parallel shin while keeping the other leg extended behind you.
BENEFIT: Pigeon’s greatest benefit comes in its impact to your sitting posture moving forward. It strengthens and stretches your muscles in a way that should make sitting in a neutral position more natural than a compromised one.
The Best Possible Solution
In my (admittedly unprofessional) opinion, the best way to stay healthy is to be proactive rather than reactive. Instead of letting your ailments mount until they can no longer be ignored, take the time to do things now that prevent them from ever getting to that point.
In addition to incorporating these stretches, find ways to break up the time you must spend sitting at work. Use a standing desk if one is available to you, go for a walk during lunch, and take short breaks throughout the day to stand up and stretch things out.
Incorporating yoga into your weekly life is another fantastic preventative measure that not only builds strength and flexibility, but prevents future injury. If you aren’t comfortable going to classes in your neighbourhood, try doing it at home. My personal favourite in-home video instructor is Rodney Yee. Through GAIAM, Rodney has created a number of easy-to-follow videos for people of all levels.
Why I Stopped Lifting Weights At The Gym & Do This Instead
Health and fitness are important parts of life, and are part of a mindset that I make sure is part of my day every day – even if that means just having an active rest day. I believe the body requires exercise every day. For a while I used to lift weights at a gym, but then that changed for me and I want to share some info about why I chose to leave that behind.
It’s not that there is anything wrong with lifting weights at the gym or at home, as there are multiple ways to “get results” in the fitness world. But I believe it comes down to enjoying something and asking what you want from your exercise. For me, right now, I use a combination of training styles, with calisthenics as the focus. With calisthenics (body-weight training) you can get all the same results as weight-lifting, become very strong, and build a truly firm foundation, while lowering your risk of injury significantly compared to weight-lifting.
Calisthenics (Body-Weight Training)
I, along with many others, strongly believe that calisthenics is the future of fitness. It’s already taken off in some countries and is now showing its spark here in Western culture -and for good reason. Many people I talk to lately seems to be looking for something different, as if they are bored of the same old gym/weight routine just as I was. It also seems people want to have more fun when they work out.
Calisthenics is about functional strength, natural looking bodies, free workouts, creativity, self-mastery, and healthy routines. It is also something many people can do. I believe that in general we are moving in this direction because times change, our minds change, and things seem to be shifting towards a more natural way of being, which means getting out of repetitive cycles.
Why I Left The Gym
I worked out at the gym for years and was lifting heavy. Did it work? Absolutely, I got plenty of muscle and gained strength. Exercising was part of my routine in high school, as I was inspired by a kinesiology course I took where I learned all about the body, muscles, nutrition, and how to work out to get results.
But I noticed that I started to get tight, I wasn’t flexible, and it was easy, even with proper form, to irritate joints when lifting heavier weights. I didn’t feel my whole body was getting strong either, just in certain parts doing specific things. Plus, I didn’t like the gym and lifting weights – the vibe, the repetition, the lack of creativity, the people so focused on hyping themselves up, looking at themselves in the mirror all day – it simply wasn’t for me. My goals were never about impressing people with my body. I wanted to be healthy, have functional strength, enjoy movement, have healthy joints, build strong neurological connections to my body, and exercise in an environment I liked.
Functional strength is strength that you utilize in everyday tasks. It also goes along with a lot of natural body movements. What I noticed in my experience from weight lifting was that I could get stronger at certain exercises yet I didn’t notice much functional strength increases versus training calisthenics. This was further illustrated to me when I would train my back and shoulders like crazy with weights, yet could only do a small amount of pull-ups. Weight-lifting exercises can often train very localized muscles, whereas with calisthenics it’s naturally more of a full-body workout. Again this comes down to what you are looking for. This was probably one of the most noticeable differences for me, I was gaining strength throughout my whole body in areas that I felt didn’t get touched when I was weight-lifting. Plus, doing calisthenics and avoiding heavy weights healed injuries that I had struggled with for years.
Coming from a point of having my back and core heavily injured, this was a huge transformation for me. The photo below is of me after only 3 months of calisthenics training. My form for this “human flag” is not perfect yet in this picture, but it’s not far off. Three months later (today), I can now hold that same move with straight arms and flatter legs.
Choosing A Workout That’s Right For You
First off, don’t let anyone tell you what routine you should be doing or what workout methods are best. You have to do what’s right for you, and being aware of your options will empower you. If you don’t enjoy your workouts, then you will have a hard time with motivation and in general you will be forcing yourself to do something you don’t like. Find what works for you, calisthenics is only one option out of many.
For me, getting out of the gym and into outdoor calisthenic workouts made me LOVE my workouts. Compared to when I used to lift weights, I’ve never felt this good. I’m stronger and more flexible than I have ever been. My mind and body connection is through the roof and even though my goals are health related, the appearance of my body is the same as when I used to lift heavy, except now my muscles are longer and my body isn’t puffy and bloated (could be diet too.) I also don’t need to go through bulk up phases and then slim down phases because my nutrition choice is a sustainable lifestyle versus being strictly fast-goal oriented.
Currently I do a mix of calisthenics and yoga. I add in sports and active rest time on days where I don’t work out. Don’t be afraid to use multiple workout methods and switch things up. It seems we often get afraid that as soon as we stop working out we’ll deflate. If that’s happening to you, you’re probably not building sustainable muscle.
Focusing totally on body image is a mindset I truly believe Western culture struggles with greatly; we are obsessed with physical results and short-term results. We’ll do anything to be a “hunk,” even if it’s not healthy for us. When you take the ego away and go for what’s a true healthy choice for you – for mind, spirit, and body – your choices and goals become very different, and your results do too.
Check Your Mindset & Goals
So is calisthenics for you? You answer that question yourself. What appeals to you? What do you want your lifestyle to look like? What do you like doing when you work out? You have to enjoy it! There’s no wrong answer.
If you want to be a body builder, and have that huge body, maybe compete in competitions, or be a power lifter (a couple reps of a ton of weight), then you will need to lift weights simply because you have to stress your body to incredible levels to get those results. You also have to eat in a specific manner to get those results and to be honest, much of the diet advice you get from these types of athletes is not all that healthy for you long-term. But of course you can make healthier diet choices.
If you are looking for a lot of functional strength, solid bone, and ligament health, good cardiovascular fitness, or a toned, muscular looking body, calisthenics will give you all of that as well.
One myth you hear a lot is that you can’t build muscle mass or get good results with calisthenics, but this isn’t true at all. You will gain a lot of strength and size, and be in great shape just as anyone working out at a gym does. There are easy exercises and tough exercises, and many of weight lifters have trouble performing some of them. Your body is your weight, so it’s not like you are not lifting weight, there’s just no added weight. You’d be surprised how hard many of these exercises are and how well they work any other body part, without an increased risk of hurting yourself.
This guy pretty much sums it up well and he’s been through a ton of different techniques. He explains why, in his opinion, he feels bodyweight/calisthenics is best. He does still lift weight as he believes in multiple types of training, but he covers some great points.
I’m simply trying to lead us to realize that it’s about kicking the ego out of your health and make it about a lifestyle choices and health. You can play in whatever realm you like, there’s no need to judge either, but keep yourself honest and in check with what you are doing and why. You have options. Choose what’s fun and engaging for you!
9 Unconventional Health Hacks Used By Extreme Sports Athletes
Extreme sports athletes have wowed the world by pushing the limits of the human body. These athletes have to deal with much higher injury rates and the mental strain of extremely dangerous stunts.
The top athletes in Skateboarding, Motocross, Snowboarding, and other extreme sports are now finally being paid as much as pro golfers, Olympians, and other more mainstream athletes.
With these high salaries, many athletes are seeing a promising future in what could only be a hobby in years past.
Serious training is now put into place for extreme athletes who have the dream of going pro in their sport. Here are 10 training lessons we can all learn from extreme sports athletes.
1. Training your mind to stay cool under pressure
During extreme sports competitions, athletes will have to deal with the danger of their stunts as well as the added pressure from competing.
It is important to train your mind to stay cool under this pressure if you are working toward a career as an extreme athlete. Try looking online for brain exercises that will help you relax under pressure.
2. Prepare yourself for injuries
As an extreme athlete, you are bound to experience more frequent injuries that will keep you out of your sport for a long period.
Recovering from injuries is almost as much of a part of becoming a world class extreme athlete as mastering your sport.
In most major cities, there are physical therapists who have had experience working with extreme athletes.
These professionals will be able to help you learn the best ways to recover from your injuries quickly and effectively.
3. Create an intense and effective training schedule
Professional athletes don’t get to the top of their sport by accident. It takes a schedule and power of mind that many individuals simply don’t possess or know how to develop.
Waking up early is a key for athletes that want to go pro in their extreme sport. Long gone are the days of the lazy idea of skateboarders who just party and skate when they feel like it.
With the money there for the taking, extreme athletes like Nyjah Huston now have schedules and regimens that will keep them at the top of their sport.
Huston is very strict about his diet. He and other extreme athletes are now taking their training much more seriously. This helps them avoid injuries, perform at a higher level during competitions, and land tricks more often than if they were unorganized in their lives.
4. Always train with athletes who will push your limits
If you are always training with skaters, bikers, and skiers who aren’t as good as you at your sport, it is going to be difficult to get better.
You need to challenge yourself by finding athletes that are better than you at your sport. This may be hard to do if you are the best in your local area.
However, it is worth travelling to a different area where there are better extreme athletes than yourself. If you are going to be competing against the best in the world, you need to be training with the best in the world.
5. Get into the right frame of mind
Just like golf, extreme sports are a very mental thing to do. Going into a competition when you aren’t feeling mentally fit can be disastrous.
Confidence is key when trying dangerous stunts. You can’t be afraid when flying down a mountain or launching off huge ramps.
Take some time to clear your mind and get into a mindset that will help you ace all of your runs.
6. Hop in a chilling ice bath
Travis Pastrana is well known for attributing his low recovery times to regularly soaking in an ice bath. This cold therapy helps to soothe sore muscles and improve recovery times.
Head to the grocery store and buy a big bag of ice. Once you get home, throw the bag of ice in your bathtub and fill it up with cold water.
This will give you a chilling yet invigorating soak that will help you recover quickly from sore muscles or injuries.
7. Use a GoPro Camera
GoPro cameras are one of the best advancements in extreme sports training technology that athletes have regular access to.
With the inexpensive price of these cameras, it is easy to pick one up and start analyzing your runs, tricks, and other performance.
Filming yourself can be a great way to identify bad habits and fix them before they set you back years in your progress.
8. Engage in activities that strengthen your mind and will
Hiking mountains, writing a short story, and remodelling a home are all examples of activities that will strengthen your mind and will.
Learning how to push through hardships to accomplish a goal will help you to be an amazing athlete. Also, activities like chess, crossword, and sudoku are amazing ways to keep your mind strong.
9. Learn everything you can about your equipment
When you are constantly slamming your equipment trying big tricks, you need to learn how to repair it yourself.
Also, learning about the different accessories you can use on your equipment will help you have an edge over the competition.
For example, having the best wheels on your longboard will help you grip the road during your downhill races.
There are many resources online that will help you learn everything you need to know about all of your extreme sports equipment.
Yoga and Cannabis: A Controversial New Trend That’s Gaining Popularity
“Yoga and herb intake have been linked since ancient times. The yoga sutras, written in Sanskrit before the time of Christ, are considered the practice’s foundational text. The sutras list herbs as one of five methods to lift the veil of ignorance, or the barrier between the conscious and the unconscious.” 
While many people feel that cannabis and exercise go anything but hand-in-hand, there is an emerging group of individuals coming forward claiming that, for them, the two actually pair quite well. In fact, they go as far as to claim that practicing yoga and receiving the therapeutic benefits they so desperately need would be all but impossible without the relaxation and pain relieving qualities cannabis has to offer.
Accounting for a large majority of said individuals are those with painful physical conditions who desperately
need the therapeutic benefits of yoga but who are unable to receive them without cannabis, due to its immense pain relieving and overall relaxing qualities. Others who are adamant about the fact that cannabis use enhances their yoga experience are those who are so tense, stressed, or anxious that they are unable to practice yoga in a manner that provides all, if virtually any, of the full range of benefits the practice has to offer due to their inability to fully surrender and melt into the process.
Such individuals feel the relaxing properties of cannabis help them clear their heads, relieve physical and mental tension, eliminate racing thoughts, and center them in a way that enables their minds, bodies, and spirits to benefit far more from the practice than they otherwise would. Since cannabis calms overactive brain activity and greatly reduces tension, it is not the least bit surprising that people are finding it to be the centering remedy needed to allow them to surrender to the practice; essentially opening the gateway to the renewal and rejuvenation yoga brings, which so many are starving for in the fast paced, high-stressed society we currently live in.
Arguments Against the Use of Cannabis During Yoga Practice
Of course, not everyone is on board with the growing trend of combining cannabis and yoga, most notably those who consider themselves to be disciplined yogis who view yoga itself as a strict, structured discipline to achieve mastery over the body and mind. To those who oppose the use of cannabis during yoga practice for this reason, “marijuana use in this context may suggest that a person is dependent on the drug for that mastery.” Furthermore, they feel that “attending a class in this drug-induced state may not allow for a clear, tranquil mind.” 
Arguments for the Use of Cannabis During Yoga Practice
The subtler attainments come with birth or are attained through herbs, mantra, austerities or concentration. Cannabis use allows for a quieting of the outside world, and the ability to focus more totally on the interior process of meditation.
– Yogasutras 4.1 
Although many people do not typically associate cannabis with exercise or any other productive activity, largely due to the “stoner” stereotype that casts people who use cannabis as unmotivated and lazy, the truth is that more stimulating strains of cannabis like sativa or sativa dominant ones can prove to be uplifting and motivating. Such strains may work to encourage productivity by providing users with smooth energy while simultaneously calming tension in the body and/or mind. These effects are especially beneficial for those with physical or mental conditions, such as chronic pain or severe anxiety, who would otherwise be rendered unable to participate in much needed therapeutic activities like yoga.
Final Conclusions on Cannabis and Yoga
In conclusion, while both sides hold validity in their own right, nothing in this world is black and white and there is rarely only one side to any given issue. So, what it comes down to, at least for those who are pro cannabis and yoga, is this: While it’s nice that many are able to engage in an activity like yoga, whose benefits are so broad in range and nature — positively affecting the mind, body, and soul to an immense degree — not everyone can be so lucky. For those who are not so lucky as a result of a debilitating physical or mental condition, they are at least lucky enough to have found something that enables them to practice yoga and improve their lives, which in this case happens to be in the form of cannabis.
Related CE Article: The Top 6 Reasons Why You Should Consider Not Smoking Weed On A Regular Basis
CE has also written many articles on the medicinal benefits on this plant in treating various diseases, from cancer to epilepsy. Please sift through the website and use the search bar if you’re looking for me!
- Winer, L. “A Yoga High With a Little Help.”. THE NEW YORK TIMES. Published December 5, 2012. Accessed March 2,2016 fromhttp://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/06/fashion/marijuana-and-yoga-pairing-up-in-classes.html?_r=0.
- “Cannabis and Yoga: What You Need to Know.” HERB. Published May 2, 2015. Accessed March 2, 2016 from http://herb.co/2015/05/02/cannabis-and-yoga-what-you-need-to-know/
- HSU, J. “Getting High During Yoga is an Ancient Practice.” THIRDMONK. Accessed March 3 2016 from http://thirdmonk.net/knowledge/high-yoga-ancient-practice.html.
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