Hi! Dr. Christianson here. We have heard so much about exercise being important for us – for stress reduction, our metabolism, endorphin production, our mood and detoxing the body. We hear of all these powerful things it does. What if all that was wrong? What if exercise actually did not achieve those goals for us? There is a new perspective emerging about this.
The new idea is not that exercise helps, but that sitting, without physical activity, hurts you. There is a difference here: If you are totally sedentary for an eight-hour block of time, and then kill it in the gym for an hour, you may not see much benefit. On the other hand, if you even skip the killer gym hour and break up your eight-hour block with some little patterns of movement, you might get even more of all those benefits in less time and with less effort. How cool would that be?
I’ll explain this concept. This sedentary, eight-hour block is pretty much computer time for a lot of us. We are either sitting in the office or at home writing, building content or researching. What if you could look at that eight hours and know you are not really hitting it all the time? You know that during a lot of that time, you are kind of ‘checked out.’ Maybe you are literally ‘checked out,’ doing other activities online, yet for part of those eight hours, you know you are not mentally at your best. So, let’s say for four hours you are doing just great. You are really ‘spot on’ and accomplishing a lot. At least, you’re productive for half the time. What if you could take that four hours and turn it into six productive hours? What if you could have two more hours of super, peak productivity? How cool would that be?
We are seeing that being inactive, even with good, hard exercise later, is the biggest danger we face in a lot of ways, and it wrecks our health. So, I’ll give you a couple secrets. The first trick is you’ve got to break up the sedentary time, and keep your body moving. If your blood did not move at all, it would form a big clot. If you bled, and the blood sat still, it would clot and form a big scab. That kind of happens to us when we are sitting still. When we are sitting and not being physically active, our blood thickens and does not move around very well. It does not get into our muscles, our brain, our thyroid glands or our adrenal glands. They all lose the good stuff we need because our blood is getting thick and stagnant. Even though our blood gets pushed out from our heart, it really expects our whole body to contribute to getting it to circulate. This is also true for our lymphatic fluid. We need this movement to keep things circulating and working well.
The other important thing is our brain function. While we are sedentary for hours, we are using our brains to think, be creative and find solutions. I want you to think about there being a button right under your rear butt cheek on the right side. Each time you sit down, that button activates a timer. Once that timer hits about 45 minutes, your brain shuts off. It’s actually true. There’s not a literal button, but if we are not moving – totally sedentary – our brains shut down. Our brains were adapted to help us negotiate dangerous environments, like find food, get away from predators and find a mate. This little thing that is about two or three pounds between my ears is not a lot of mass, but it uses 25-35 percent of my power. Think of it this way: If you are managing a factory, and all of your electrical currents are flowing to one part of the factory you aren’t using, you’re going to stop sending fuel to that area. That is what happens to our brains. When we sit down for more than about 45-50 minutes, the brain gets the fuel taken away from it and doesn’t work very well. If you care a lot about your productivity and accomplishing your tasks, you will be glad to know you’ll get more done if you move around every now and then.
The second trick is to stay hydrated. The more hydrated you are, the easier the blood moves through your body. This is a two for one: If you stay hydrated, you cannot sit still for hours and hours on end. You have to get up and empty your bladder every so often.
I’m going to give you a ritual to think about doing on a 50-minute schedule. I worked this out while writing the last book, THE ADRENAL RESET DIET. My life consisted of trying to stay fit, taking care of a family, kids, my practice and also, writing a book. I had to manage this and really needed blocked time to research, think and create new concepts. I couldn’t just grab 10 minutes here or there and expect it to be quality. So, I sometimes had days where I logged 14 hours of writing and, at times, even more. In order to do that, I learned some ways to break up the day. This way, I ended up feeling refreshed, invigorated and happy the next day. So, here is how it works: Every 50 minutes, you’ll do a cycle of movements. I actually set a timer on my phone. If you don’t set a timer, you’ll get so into the flow of what you’re doing, you’ll not be aware of how much time has gone by. So, the 50-minute timer goes off, and the first thing you do is get up and start doing some shoulder swings. Do some really hard rotations. Imagine your arms being completely loose and go forward and back as fast as you can, doing a dozen in each direction.
Once you have done your shoulder swings, the next step is deep, diaphragmatic breathing. We are always trying to suck in our bellies and look good, but that is not how we breathe best. We breathe best by pushing the diaphragm out and pulling air deep, deep into our lungs. The lower parts of our lungs have the most blood supply, and they get the most oxygen into our brain. If you are not used to doing deep, diaphragmatic breaths, put your hand on your belly and aim to push your hand out as you are breathing in. When you exhale, pull your tummy as close to your spine as you possibly can. Do half a dozen deep, deep diaphragmatic breaths.
The next step is distance focus. We have sayings, like “seeing what’s right in front of you,” “seeing the big picture” or “seeing what’s coming up on the horizon.” Think about those metaphors. It’s “seeing what’s right in front of you” versus “seeing the big picture.” If we do not look far away, it changes how our brain is working, diminishes our creativity and the blood flow to our brain. A great idea is to have access to a window, and if you have to walk a little way to get to it, all the better. The movement is good. Find a distance point, ideally more than 30 feet away, that is outside of a window. If you can see something on the horizon, that’s great, as you want it to be as far away as possible. I happen to look at the tip of a mountain from where I am here. I focus on that and then, I will focus as close in as I can on my finger. Then, I focus on the tip of the mountain, and focus back on my finger. I do that about half a dozen times. By doing this, your visually acuity will improve. If you need glasses, you may eventually need to adjust your prescription to a lighter version, or you may not need them at all. That happens. Your mental acuity and productivity will go up radically by seeing the big picture, by seeing what is on the horizon. Literally and metaphorically, it changes how your brain works.
The last step in this little ritual is the leg shake. It is pretty much the same thing you did with your arms but one leg at a time. Just shake your leg out really strongly for a couple of good breaths. Now, do the same with the other leg. Get some good blood flow and some good movement. Feel free to hold onto things to stabilize yourself, if you need to.
Create a ritual. I have shared mine and it works really well. To recap, every 50 minutes, do shoulder swings, some deep breaths, seeing the big picture in the distance and then, something like the hokey pokey. Get yourself some more water. Take a quick trip to the restroom, and set your timer for the next 50 minutes. The crazy thing is you can go through a long, full day of sedentary activities, and you can find yourself happier, more engaged and more focused, rather than feeling wrecked (which is what normally happens). So, try it out. Stress less about crazy, hard training and think more about breaking up the inactivity to really revitalize your health, and ramp up your mission.
Reset your life. Reset your health, and I love to show you how. Dr. Christianson here, and I will talk to you real soon.