At my gym, San Francisco CrossFit, our primary mission is to improve the quality of our clients’ lives, both inside and outside of the gym. That means we not only teach people how to move and guide them through challenging workouts, but also teach them how to make healthier lifestyle choices. One of the lifestyle factors that we hammer home to all of our clients is the importance of sitting less and moving more throughout the day.
Today, Americans spend an average of 13 hours a day sitting. We sit while we eat, we sit during our commutes, we sit at work and we sit in front of the TV. According to renowned obesity expert Dr. James A. Levine, for every hour we spend sitting we lose two hours of life. And here’s the rub: Going to the gym and exercising will not undo the harmful effects of sitting too much. So you might be improving your clients’ health by coaching them through exercise, but unless you get them to reduce the time they spend sitting, you’re not doing your job. To me, a good Coach provides advice and guidance related to lifestyle as well as technical instruction related to training.
The problem is, simply telling your clients that they need to sit less and move more will not get the desired result. It’s like telling someone who wants to lose weight that they should consume less sugar and eat more vegetables. Great advice, but you’re telling them what they already know. To help them adopt healthier lifestyle habits, you need to be more specific and provide simple, actionable guidelines that they can remember and follow. And you must tie these changes to increased performance in the gym. This is exactly what we do in our most recent book, Deskbound. Instead of just telling people that they need to sit less and move more, we outline a simple strategy for reducing the amount of time spent sitting. And it starts with reducing optional sitting.
Writing Deskbound opened our eyes to some interesting truths. As we analyzed our chair-based environment, we realized that there are actually two forms of sitting — required sitting and optional sitting.
Sometimes sitting is your only option. This is “required sitting.” Driving a car, for example, falls into the required sitting category. In such a situation, all you can do is try to optimize your sitting position and get up and move whenever possible. Most situations, however, do not require you to sit in a chair. Working at a computer, texting, eating a quick lunch, watching TV — these are “optional sitting” situations, meaning you have other options, such as standing, squatting or walking.
When we get our clients to reduce optional sitting in their lives, they intuitively adopt positions like standing. This creates a more movement-rich environment. And they feel a lot better and perform better (lift more, work harder, etc.) as a result. Below we offer three simple guidelines to help remove the nasty habit of sitting from the daily routine. These are the same guidelines that we cover in the book and that we advocate to our Coaches and clients.
This is perhaps the best way to sit less and move more. Standing is a gateway to movement. Even if your client stands for only part of the day — say, twenty minutes for every hour of work — that’s still a lot better than sitting in a chair all day.
When you’re relaxing — hanging out with friends or watching TV — try to adopt different positions other than sitting. You can stand, post your foot up on a chair or squat. Be creative. You can also position yourself on the ground. This is a great because you have more position options. You can sit cross-legged, kneel, squat, and stretch. This is how we watch TV in our household. Instead of sitting static in chairs, we alternate between positions on the floor, stretch and foam roll.
Whether you’re waiting for your turn at the doctor’s office or for your stop on the subway, you don’t have to sit. You can alternate between standing positions or pace around.
Look, we all know that we should sit less and move more. The trick is actually doing it. If you want to improve the quality of your clients’ lives, get them to reduce optional sitting by giving them these simple guidelines to follow. The bottom line is that you can remove hours of sitting without dramatically changing your lifestyle. And these small changes make massive differences over time.
By Juliet Starrett & Glen Cordoza