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Measuring Progress Off the Scale

If you’re anything like me, a new year means lots of new goals, and within the world of fitness some of these goals we set revolve around our weight.  Let’s discuss why “weight” is not the best way to measure progress towards health and fitness goals.

“We should focus on the long-term goals of improving health and happiness, which are two units that no scale will ever be able to measure.”

Scales are good for telling us one thing and one thing only: your total body weight.  This includes bones, muscle, fat, fluids, hair, organs, and skin.  Changes in any of these factors can increase the reading on the scale.  This can be discouraging if we define our goal as decreasing the number on the scale.  However, we can fight these disheartening feelings and maintain our motivation by looking elsewhere for signs of progress.

Related: What Better Than Yesterday Means to Me


JOURNALING

The best way to track progress is daily journaling. Writing down how you feel, physically and emotionally, after a workout or at any point in the day is a great way for you to take a second and think about how your journey is going.  Just quick notes in your WOD Log or on your phone about how a workout felt, or if you have more energy, or how eating is going – are all it takes to get you connected to your body and think about ways that you’re making progress. When you’re having a moment of low motivation (which will happen), you can look back at past journal notes to remind yourself how far you’ve come and what you’re working towards.

Related: 3 Reasons to Log Your Workouts


STRENGTH

While weight on the scale is not the best indicator of progress in fitness, the weight we’re lifting is a valuable sign of improvement. Do you find yourself loading more weight on the bar, or feeling more comfortable with a difficult movement? Or perhaps things in everyday life are feeling easier?  Increasing strength is a critical sign of progress and should be celebrated accordingly, regardless of what the number on the scale says.

Related: The Importance of Foundational Strength


MOBILITY GAINS

Whether we’re trying to lose or gain weight or not, nearly all of us can be working towards mobility goals and getting into better positions during exercises. If you’ve been struggling with a certain movement, like holding a barbell in front of you, or squatting with heels down, ask your coaches some ways you can improve your mobility. Then, track your progress in one or a few key mobility positions and test them every week or two. Good positions to test are overhead squat with a PVC, seated forward fold, or overhead reach. Just like improvements in strength, mobility gains are great for our bodies but don’t show up on a scale, so focus on these to take some power out of that machine you occasionally step on.


MEASUREMENTS & PHOTOS

The majority of the time when we start a fitness program that involves resistance exercises, the muscle we gain weighs around as much as the fat we lose, so the number on the scale might actually creep up. This is just another reason why the scale might not be your best friend in measuring progress. Some alternative ways we can track body composition progress are by recording measurements around the chest, waist, and thighs, or noticing how clothes fit, or taking periodic photos. However, a word of caution with these: doing them too often robs them of some of their power. We look in a mirror every single day which is why it’s hard to see progress happening sometimes, and if we take measurements every day it will be just as hard to feel like you’re improving. Taken at regular intervals, measurements and photos are a great way to see how far we’ve actually come and can be great motivation to continue the work you’ve started.


While it might be tempting to measure progress by hopping on the nearest scale, my hope is that by focusing on some of the alternative measures of progress we’ll all be able to stop placing so much importance on the numbers that show up on that device. I definitely do NOT recommend tossing your scale out your window and eating however many brownies you want (trust me, I want them all too). But I am saying that we should focus on the long-term goals of improving health and happiness, which are two units that no scale will ever be able to measure.

–Jay Alexander

Coach/Trainer

jay@crossfitslipstream.com

MEMBER HIGHLIGHT – MEET MATT!

Matt has been a member at CrossFit Slipstream for over a year now!  He’s always smiling and happy.  We love having him as part of our community!  Read what Matt has to say about CrossFit below:

1.Why did you decide to try CrossFit?

I was initially weary about joining a CrossFit gym. What I understood of it was that it involved weights and high intensity. This sounded like a great way to get in shape, but I was concerned it may cause injuries and that it was geared more for people in their 20’s. Interested, I came to a couple guest nights to try it out. The workouts were great. I decided to join to see what it was like. Right away, Jon asked if I had any injuries and mobility issues. He was also very conscious about form and preventing injury. The required onboarding was great because it gave a good flavor of what the workouts would be like and taught proper form to avoid injury. After that, it was a matter of reaching the goals I set for myself.

2. How has having a coach changed your workout or fitness results?

The consults have been useful to help me keep on track in a reasonable and well-rounded, accountable manner. They make for a great opportunity to reflect and ensure I am making good decisions all around in my life.

3. How has CrossFit affected your life/health?

I can certainly tell more balance in my muscles and my joints feel more stable. I do a lot of endurance activities and swam in high school and college. This made a lot of my muscle groups uneven in strength, which can, and was starting to cause some issues. The symptoms are now gone, but I know I need to continue working at it.

4. What would you say to someone who is thinking about trying CrossFit?

Bite the bullet and go to a guest day or two. It is really fun and you can get in some really great workouts. Be honest and upfront about any injuries or mobility issues you have. They will make accommodations to ensure you do not hurt yourself.

I heard about CrossFit from a friend.

I tried it because its hard work, not pretend.

Having a CrossFit coach has changed my workouts in a number of ways.

AMRAPS, Metcons, and rounds for time sometimes makes my muscles sore for days.

But don’t you worry one little bit,

Jon is a stickler on form to keep you injury free and fit.

CrossFit has changed my health for the better. This you should trust;

my muscles are more balanced and joints more robust.

If you care about fitness, I suggest you try CrossFit. It’s  like a family. It’s like a team.

You get there faster in the SlipStream!

The Importance of Foundational Strength

Whether you just started CrossFit or you’ve been at it for years, it can be extremely tempting to want to jump into the skills we see elite athletes doing like muscle-ups, handstand walking, and one-legged squats. But behind this “sexy” side of CrossFit lies one common denominator: a high level of fundamental strength.

Related: Continuing Education: Benefits of Learning New Skills

Traditionally, the metcons we do in CrossFit are classified as aerobic endurance training, since nearly all of them last longer than 2 minutes. However, most of these workouts involve some sort of resistance based movement, whether that be a barbell or our bodyweight. Therefore, strength comes into play and confounds the principles of physiology that say you don’t have to be strong to be a high-level endurance athlete. But if we have the goal of increasing the loads we use during a metcon (like striving to complete the Open workouts Rx), we have to be comfortable moving the weights they require for multiple repetitions. For example, a workout involving 30 squat cleans at 135 lbs/61 kg will be much easier for an athlete who’s one rep-max (1RM) is 275 lbs/125 kg vs. one who’s 1RM is 175 lbs/80kg. The stronger athlete will exert less energy per repetition, rest less between reps, and do more in less time.

But the benefits of increasing our baseline levels of strength transfer outside of the gym as well. When our muscles, tendons, and ligaments get stronger and are able to withstand more force, we become less likely to become injured. As we age, many times we lose the strength to do certain tasks like carry grocery bags or stand up out of bed, but by focusing on strength training we can significantly decrease the chances of this happening. So now that we know that increasing our overall strength will help us both in the gym and in life, let’s take a look at how this really happens.

Strength is a general adaptation, which means that when we increase our strength in one movement, that strength tends to transfer to seemingly unrelated movements. This is because strength gains come mainly from improvements in the function of our central nervous system (CNS). When we perform compound lifts like squats, deadlifts, and presses, our CNS starts to recruit more muscle fibers at the correct times, and can do this faster than before. As our CNS gets more comfortable under heavier loads in a back squat for example, you don’t just get stronger in the back squat. Many other movements from thrusters to rowing benefit as well. Therefore, strength training ends up helping provide a base that transfers to all other movements in CrossFit, including gymnastics movements where the only load we’re moving is our body.

Related: Zero to Hero: Drills for Your First Pull-Up

The other main reason strength training is extremely beneficial is because it helps develop proper body mechanics. In order to lift as heavy of loads as possible our form has to be spot on, both because proper form is safer and more mechanically efficient. A prime example of this is that when we learn how to do heavy deadlifts, we can use the same form anytime we have to pick up boxes when we’re moving or an infant up off the ground. Within the gym, this focus on correct form will transfer to similar movements that come up in metcons, leaving us less likely to get injured and more efficient during the workout.

Related: Why Motor Control Makes You Stronger

Strength training truly does provide a one-two punch to improving our fitness by providing general neural adaptation and teaching proper body mechanics. Building a strong base by focusing on strength training will help improve nearly every aspect of our fitness, as well as our daily lives from the moment we step out of bed in the morning to the minute we crawl back into it at night. A couple days a week for multiple weeks is all it takes to see dramatic improvement in strength numbers. Our strength program starts up on January 15th, and is the perfect opportunity to see for yourself how improving strength will set up the foundations for you to feel better and move better both in the gym and outside of it.

–Jay Alexander

Coach/Trainer

jay@crossfitslipstream.com

Skip the Sickness

For fitness fanatics, there’s nothing quite as frustrating as having to avoid the gym because of a nasty cold. And while there’s no way to guarantee that you won’t come down with a case of the sniffles this winter, there are quite a few things we can do to make it less likely to happen. Our immune system is responsible for fighting off the viruses and bacteria (a.k.a. germs) that are constantly trying to make us sick. These germs actually favor and multiply faster in the cold, dry air that winter brings, so our immune system takes a beating this time of year, leaving us more susceptible to sickness.  Luckily, muscles aren’t the only things we can strengthen in our body, so today we’ll take a look at a couple ways we can bulk up our bodies security guard, the immune system.


EAT YOUR VEGGIES

Plant foods contain biologically active compounds called phytochemicals that provide a wide array of health benefits that we can’t get very many other places. Of interest for this topic, one of these benefits is that phytochemicals are one of nature’s best known immune boosters. Our bodies can convert these compounds to vitamins that are critical to fighting off sickness and disease. They also function as antioxidants, which reduce the oxidative damage that free radicals cause. Side note if you’re interested: free radicals react with important cellular components like DNA or the cell membrane, which can lead to the cell functioning poorly or dying.

So where can we find these miracle workers called phytochemicals? Dark green, red, orange, and yellow veggies and fruits pack the most, so pick up some spinach, beets, and bell peppers on your next grocery trip.

Related: 3 Key Elements of a Successful Nutrition Plan


EXERCISE

Over the last 20 or so years, we’ve gathered plenty of evidence that exercise improves immune system function, but scientists still aren’t exactly sure how. One theory is that when we exercise and breathe heavy, we flush bacteria out of the lungs and airways. Another explanation is that during exercise, antibodies and white blood cells (two types of key immune cells) circulate faster and are therefore able to detect germs earlier and prevent them from multiplying. Yet another theory is that the temporary rise in body temperature we experience during a workout can prevent bacteria from growing.

Finally, one possible explanation is that the benefit exercise provides to our immune system is actually a product of the slowed release of stress hormones following a workout, but we’ll explore this more a bit later. Regardless of which of these theories is correct, it’s no debate that getting your sweat on helps prevent getting sick. Quick disclaimer though: intense exercise temporarily depresses the immune system, so working out once you’re already feeling sick might only make things worse, so keep this in mind.


DESTRESS

Along with the colder weather, this time of year tends to bring quite a bit of stress for many of us. Whether its looming deadlines or a long to-do list that’s causing your stress this season, the hormones that pump throughout the body when we’re stressed interfere with our immune system. Stress creates chronic inflammation that harms our bodies cells and tissues, and suppresses the immune cells that are needed to fight off infections. Stress also makes it take longer to heal after we do get sick, so clearly that stress isn’t doing much good for our bodies. So when you feel that tenseness take over, destress in whichever way works best for you. Take some alone time, read a book, or even better, get some sleep. Immune cell counts drop even further when we’re not getting enough sleep.

Related: 7 Bedtime Routines to Help You Sleep Tight


While the science of getting sick can be fairly complicated, the ways we can try our best to avoid it can be much simpler than we think. Eating the right foods, moving your body, and letting go of stress are three things we can control that will leave our immune system strong and ready to fight off the onslaught of germs facing us every day. And by staying healthy, we’ll be able to continue to crush our goals in and out of the gym.

Related: Slipstream Holiday Survival Guide

–Jay Alexander

Coach/Trainer

jay@crossfitslipstream.com

12 Gift Ideas

Wondering what to get the CrossFitter or soon-to-be CrossFitter in your life?  Not to worry!  Here are 12 gift ideas!

1. Rogue Jump Rope

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2. Becoming a Supple Leopard by Kelly Starrett

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3. CrossFit Slipstream Sweatshirt $65

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4. Mobility Toys

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5. CrossFit Slipstream Towel $7.99

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6. CrossFit Socks

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7. CrossFit Slipstream WOD Log $15

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8. CrossFit Slipstream TShirt $25

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9. CrossFit Slipstream Tank $20

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10. CrossFit Shoes

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11. Inside the Box

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12. CrossFit Slipstream Gift Certificate – The Perfect Stocking Stuffer!

Special – Purchase $100 Gift Certificate, get $20 Gift Certificate Free for you through Dec 23rd, 2017.  $100 Gift Certificate redeemable by new members only.

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All CrossFit Slipstream items may be purchased in store, or email us at info@crossfitslipstream.com.

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Slipstream Holiday Survival Guide

While the holiday season is often associated with joy and peace, we’re all aware of that  it can be a difficult few weeks to focus on your health. With all the parties, treats, traveling, and stress of planning and shopping, it’s no wonder most of us are eager to set health related goals by the time January 1 rolls around. Adding in exercise and clean eating these next few weeks can seem like a little too much for anyone, but by finding a balance we can ensure we don’t slide too far off-track in regards to our health goals while still enjoying the most wonderful time of the year.


FOOD

From pie to chocolates to egg nog and everything in between, it’s pretty hard to go anywhere this time of year without encountering something sweet, which is why our diet is often the first thing that goes out the window during the holidays. However, there are ways we can avoid at least a few of the extra pounds we tend to pack on in December, and these ways don’t have to involve saying no all the time. In fact, when we approach eating with the right mindset, it’s still possible to enjoy the season its food without having to feel guilty.

Related: 3 Key Elements of a Successful Nutrition Plan

The first thing we can do is plan ahead, in both the big and little picture. Luckily, it’s still early enough in the month to make progress before the craziness near the end of the month hits. For now, don’t keep treats in the house. If they’re there, you’ll eat them, even if you know you’ll eat plenty of dessert the next weekend. Speaking of all those holiday parties you have coming up, another way we can plan ahead is to never go to a party hungry. If we’re starving when we head to the party, chances are we’ll overeat. Since the options at the party usually aren’t the healthiest, eating beforehand and then having a small meal at the party is the best bet that we won’t overindulge. Another small tip, eat slow and put down your fork between bites, the longer it takes to eat the less likely you’ll be to go back for seconds.


TRAVEL

Whether it’s to a family member’s house that’s a 30 minute drive away or a four hour flight, most of us will be traveling in some capacity this holiday season. And most of these trips involve at least one thing that can get us in a bit of trouble when it comes to our health; sitting. Besides preventing us from burning off those extra holiday calories that we’ve inevitably consumed, prolonged sitting is detrimental to our health for many reasons. One way we can combat these effects during travel is by walking around the airport while waiting to board instead of sitting. You know you’ll be sitting for the entire flight, so why sit beforehand too? If road-tripping, try your best to sit with proper posture (core engaged, shoulders up, back, and down) and keep some movement in the lower body, like fidgeting, to keep blood flowing. Regardless, we’re going to have to be sitting for a while, so at least make the most of this time by listening to your favorite health-related podcast. That way, you’ll be motivated to get moving once your travels are over.

Related: What is Sitting Really Doing to Me?

The other way travel can seriously stunt health efforts is by taking us out of typical fitness routine. However, a week out of town doesn’t have to mean an entire week off. Bring along any small mobility tools you own like a lacrosse ball, or stretch when you can to take steps towards improved mobility and flexibility. If you do have access to a hotel gym, get creative! Combine 3 or 4 dumbbell and/or bodyweight movements and perform them as a circuit. And remember that wherever you are, chances are there’s a CrossFit box near you that you could drop-in to. This can be a great way to expose yourself to the larger CrossFit community we’re all a part of, or just take a needed break from family.


By following just one or a few of these tips, hopefully we’ll all be able to continue on our journey towards bettering ourselves throughout the holiday season and set ourselves up for even more success in the next year. But overall, my biggest piece of advice in this time of year is to not be too hard on yourself. You don’t have to say no to enjoying this time of year to stay healthy. Progress still occurs when we’re consistent week in and week out and indulge every once in a while – the key here is to keep it as every once in a while. Find your balance and remember that many of the things that the holidays are about – mainly, time with loved ones – are much more important than what the scale says. So if a couple days don’t go as planned, don’t beat yourself up about it too much, just show up ready to work once the holidays pass.

Related: What “Better Than Yesterday” Means to Me

 –Jay Alexander

Coach/Trainer

jay@crossfitslipstream.com

DECEMBER MEMBER HIGHLIGHT – MEET TAMMY!

Tammy has been a member at CrossFit Slipstream since we opened nearly 4 years ago!  She’s always smiling and happy.  We love having her as part of our community!  Read what Tammy has to say about CrossFit below:

1.Why did you decide to try CrossFit?

I have always enjoyed working out at gym and trying to be in good physical condition but I became bored with the same old routines and work out methods – I have competed in body building competitions and was hooked on lifting weights. I saw CrossFit games on TV and thought it looked fun and challenging, at the time I was not aware of any CrossFit boxes near me so I dd not pursue it.  I met coach John at a business fair and we got to talking.  He mentioned the first class was free and the box was near me so I decided to try it out.  That was almost 4 years ago and I am still enjoying CrossFit.  As for weight lifting, CrossFit is now my style, I absolutely love the barbells! so much better than dumbbells 🙂

2. How has having a coach changed your workout or fitness results?

It is great to go to a gym and know the workout is planned I don’t have to do a thing but show up and put my best foot forward.  The coaches know my strengths and weaknesses and will give me that encouragement to go a little further, a little further, and we can both laugh when I do something I said I couldn’t do whether it is to lift a certain weight, get through a cardio session or get the form proper for a certain move, etc.  John stresses the importance of all around health and fitness, that it is the things we do outside the gym/box that count as much as the actual workout, from the food we eat to the way we breath. CrossFit Slipstream has many resources for all around health, i.e.. nutrition courses, running clinics, incorporating breathing work before a workout, and yoga to cool down.  All of the coaches at CrossFit Slipstream take the time to listen to any issues I may be having with health and we scale my workout to what is possible that day, where I normally would say ahh I just can’t workout today I now go knowing anything I can accomplish in the gym is better than nothing and it is usually more than I thought I could.

3. How has CrossFit affected your life/health?

I am healthier because CrossFit incorporates weightlifting with cardio.  I have always been bored with cardio at the gym so I would avoid it but now I get my cardio mixed in with my weightlifting during a session at the gym/box and it is fun. I have met wonderful people that inspire me and are so much fun to work out with.

4. What would you say to someone who is thinking about trying CrossFit?

If all you know of CrossFit is the games you see on TV and think that is not for you, think again.  The workouts are scaled to what you wish to accomplish for your health and happiness, from losing weight to building strength and gaining muscle.  Do not be intimidated, everyone is so accepting of wherever you are at in your journey and so encouraging.  If you get down on yourself at times for not accomplishing as much in the workout as you wanted to, the members remind you how great it is that you are doing what you can that day and you have no one to compete with but yourself. You also have days when you are on top of it all and get to be the one to inspire others to do their best. 

Shoulder Prehab 101

It’s no secret that our shoulders bear a heavy burden when it comes to the work we do in CrossFit. From pressing weights overhead, to hanging from a pull-up bar, and every movement in between, our shoulder joints never get much of a break. Add to this the fact that most of us live our lives with less than ideal posture – thanks sitting – and it’s no surprise that nagging shoulder injuries are among the most common seen among CrossFitters.

Related: What is Sitting Really Doing to Me?

If you’ve ever experienced lingering shoulder pain, or even a more severe shoulder issue, you know how debilitating it can be, since it’s hard to force ourselves to not use a shoulder in our daily life. Luckily, there are things we can do to “bulletproof” our shoulders, and prevent irritating shoulder pain from keeping us on the sidelines. When it comes to injury prevention, there are a couple terms we have to get comfortable with first. Mobility is a joint’s maximal ability to move through a full range of motion, pain free. Stability, on the other hand, is how well we can control movements through that range of motion. The 4 exercises we’ll look at today focus mainly on shoulder stability, and creating strong joints that are better suited to handle our day-to-day both in and outside of the gym.

Luckily, there are things we can do to “bulletproof” our shoulders, and prevent irritating shoulder pain from keeping us on the sidelines.

Related: How can ROM make you fitter?

1.) BAND PULL APART’S ON FOAM ROLLER

For this exercise, start by lying on a foam roller that’s long enough for both your hips and head to be resting on the roller, while keeping your feet flat on the floor. Hold a blue or red band directly over your chest, with hands starting shoulder width distance apart and palms facing towards your feet. There should be a small amount of tension in the band at the start, but not too much. Then, keep your elbows locked out as you spread your arms out to a T, making sure the band is contacting the chest right at the sternum. Pause for 2 seconds, then slowly return back to the starting position to complete the rep. Perform 3 sets of 10 reps each.

2.) BANDED PVC ROWS

The setup for this exercise starts by looping a blue or red band around the rig at shoulder height. Place a PVC through the other end of the band, and grab the PVC with hands at shoulder width. Take a few steps back from the rig until there is slight tension in the band with your arms outstretched, and bring a slight bend to the knees. Pull the PVC directly to the sternum, pause there for 2 seconds, then slowly return back to the starting position. Make sure to pull the PVC all the way to your chest, instead of leaning forward with the chest to make contact. Perform 2 sets of 10 reps with palms facing up, and 2 sets of 10 reps with palms facing down.

3.) BANDED PVC PULLDOWNS

This exercise utilizes the same setup as the previous one, with the band looped around the rig and a PVC through the band. Lay down on your back with your head closer to the rig while grabbing the PVC overhead, keeping the knees bent to plug the soles of the feet into the ground. Engage your abs and lift head and shoulders off the ground. Keep your elbows locked out and pull down on the PVC until it contacts your thighs. Pause for 2 seconds, and return arms slowly back overhead. Perform 3 sets of 10 reps.

4.) DUMBBELL OVERHEAD CARRIES

This is most likely my favorite shoulder stability exercise, as it forces us to stabilize the midline simultaneously as the shoulder. A strong midline is essential for proper movement mechanics in anything we do in CrossFit, and therefore will help with injury prevention across the board. The concept for this exercise is simple, lock one moderate weight dumbbell out overhead and walk. Pay close attention to form here however, by keeping the core tight and bicep close to the ear, without shrugging up the shoulder. The dumbbell should find a “slot” where it is much more comfortable to carry, since it is stacked directly over the shoulder. Continue to keep the elbow locked out, walk a set distance, switch hands, and walk back to your starting point. Perform 3 sets, resting between as needed.

These exercises will help bring more stability and control to all of the movements the shoulder is involved in, but we must not forget the importance of our mobility exercises as well. Our shoulder can only be as stable as it is mobile, since we must first have the ability to get into good position, and then learn to control that position.

Related: 4 Simple Shoulder Mobility Movements

Perform these prehab exercises once or twice a week when you have time before or after workout, and you’ll be well on your path to more injury resistant and pain-free shoulders. Feel free to do two or three of these exercises in a superset, and remember to move slow and controlled, these aren’t for time!

–Jay Alexander

Coach/Trainer

jay@crossfitslipstream.com

What is Sitting Really Doing to Me?

If you’ve been paying attention to health in the news over the last few years, you’ve probably seen a headline or two with something along the lines of “Sitting is the New Smoking”. While this is very clearly an attention-grabbing headline, most of the articles and stories still leave room for questions, with the main one being, “Why is sitting really that bad for me?” How can it be that something so intertwined to nearly everything we do in today’s society can be killing us? We grow up sitting in school, then we grow up and sit at our jobs, while we eat, when we’re at a movie or show, and when we drive to and from all these places. It truly is impressive how much we as a human population sit nowadays. And it’s not just an adult problem anymore, a recent study found that teens are now just as sedentary as 60 year olds. In the past few years, study after study have found correlations between higher amounts of time spent sitting and obesity, type II diabetes, and many other chronic, preventable diseases.

We probably all had a relative that told us to “Sit up straight!” and “Stop slouching!” at the dinner table, but clearly we’re now finding out that sitting does more than just promote bad posture and musculoskeletal issues like tight hips and low back pain. But the scariest part for those of us who consider ourselves active? Exercise does not offset the problems that sitting causes, so let’s take a deeper look at why one of the things you’re probably doing at this moment is so bad for you, and how we can go about mitigating the risks of one of our laziest habits.

Related: 4 Simple Moves to Improve Your Low Back

Since you might already have heard about how bad sitting is for you, I’ll make this a quick rundown of everything that’s happening when you take a seat. Let’s start from the top, your brain. A sedentary body means less blood flow to everywhere, including the brain. Therefore, it starts to lack the nutrients, namely oxygen, that it needs to function properly and quickly, so it becomes increasingly hard to focus and think critically the longer we sit. The brain, along with a couple other organs, control hormone levels in the body, and these become severely imbalanced while we’re sitting. In particular, insulin production increases significantly because sedentary cells don’t respond to insulin well, so more of it has to be produced. Here lies the link to type II diabetes. Moving on to the lungs. Even when we sit with good posture, the ribcage is compressed, restricting full lung function and breathing. In our cardiovascular system, we see lower levels of high-density lipoproteins (the good cholesterol) that are needed to fight off deadly cardiovascular diseases. And finally, the gut is also compressed while we sit, inhibiting proper digestion and providing a reason for the higher incidence of colon cancer among those that sit excessively.

Related: Continuing Education: Benefits of Learning New Skills

That’s a lot of bad consequences, but despite all of this there is hope, because not all sitting is created equally. In one study, one group of people sat while slouching and the other sat with proper posture (spine in neutral position, abs engaged, etc.), and both were exposed to stress-inducing questionnaire tasks. After the task, the good posture group had higher self-esteem levels, that was determined to be caused by increased physiological arousal and more energy. On the other hand, the slouching group had a higher susceptibility to stress.

“We probably all had a relative that told us to “Sit up straight!” and “Stop slouching!” at the dinner table, but clearly we’re now finding out that sitting does more than just promote bad posture and musculoskeletal issues like tight hips and low back pain.”

But besides sitting with proper posture for shorter stints of time – which heads up, will take a while to become natural – how else can we avoid the detriments of sitting without significantly changing our lifestyle? A couple simple ways to improve our habits include setting a timer to make sure you get up and move at least once every hour, or using a small water glass instead of the 72 ounce water bottles you see everywhere nowadays so that you have to get up and refill it more often.  Also, try to fidget, roll your shoulders, or keep any other small movements going while you sit to trick your body into thinking it’s not being stationary. In light of the recent understanding of what sitting is doing to our bodies, standing and adjustable desks have been increasing in popularity over the last couple years. See if your office provides them, or invest in one for yourself so that you can keep getting work done without giving sitting the chance to attack. Notice that none of my suggestions involved quitting your desk job or getting rid of all the chairs in your house. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and we’re not going to change society’s sitting problem overnight, but we should still try to help ourselves in the ways we can. Through small changes like these, along with continuing to exercise at moderate to high intensities, the goal is that we’ll be able to keep our body’s functioning properly now and well into the future.

Related: Why CrossFit?

–Jay Alexander

Coach/Trainer

jay@crossfitslipstream.com

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