We’ve heard it time and time again: prolonged sitting is bad for our health. Yet, the average American spends between 6.5 and 8 hours sitting every day. It makes sense. After all, many of us work desk jobs, go to school, or have a long commute to work. In addition to that, it isn’t uncommon to sit on the couch and indulge in our favorite TV shows or movies after a long day of work.
We know it’s not good for us. We’ve all seen the research that shows that a sedentary lifestyle can lead to numerous negative health effects such as heart disease, obesity, and high blood pressure. Unfortunately, not all of us are able to control how much we sit, especially if we work an office job or are still in school.
There is still hope though. Even when we need to be inactive, we can use things like active rest postures as a healthier alternative to sitting. But what are active rest postures and how do you use them? Let’s take a look.
What are Active Rest Postures?
Put simply, active rest postures are positions you can assume when inactive that still engage your muscles. These positions include squatting and kneeling, but even sitting with your back unsupported can be beneficial.
The effects of active rest postures have shown to have numerous health benefits. But before we get into the details, let’s take a look at a community that uses these postures regularly-the Hadza community from Tanzania.
Despite their hunting and gathering lifestyle, the people of the Hadza community spend just as much time resting as office workers in the western world, if not more. In fact, they are estimated to partake in 9 to 10 hours of low activity each day, not including sleeping hours.
Despite the similarity in sedentary hours, the Hadza hardly has any incidences of lifestyle diseases like obesity and heart disease. Their nomadic lifestyle and diet have a lot to do with it, but the way they rest during the day also contributes a great deal to their exceptional health.
When not working, you will find the Hadza squatting in circles around a fire or kneeling in small groups to socialize. It may seem like a simple difference, but the choice to squat or kneel instead of sit helps keep them strong and fit in addition to many other health benefits.
Benefits of Active Rest Postures
So why would you choose to spend your time squatting or kneeling when you can be much more comfortable camped out on the couch? The answer is simple-the benefits outweigh the discomforts. Here are just a few of those benefits.
Improved Blood Flow From the Legs. The calf muscles are sometimes referred to as the “peripheral heart” because their contraction helps to pump blood against gravity and back up to the heart. When you sit for long periods of time, you tend not to engage your calf muscles. This can cause blood to start to pool in your calves, which can increase the risk of things like blood clots.
Active rest postures like squatting engage these muscles, improving blood flow from your lower extremities. This is particularly important if your job involves sitting for several hours at a time.
Strengthening of Joints. If your body isn’t used to it, the first day of using active rest postures regularly can be brutal. And since your knees and ankles are your main weight-bearing joints, they will take the brunt of it.
But with time, practice, and the correct postures, your joints will adapt and become better at handling the extra stress. In the end, this will make them stronger and better able to handle the impact of other activities such as working out.
Less Muscle Strain. Yes, you read that right. Sitting gives the illusion of muscle support; however, most of us sit in ways that are more harmful than supportive. All it takes is a poorly designed chair or poor posture to cause strain in the back, shoulders, and neck.
It may be surprising, but active rest postures can actually prevent this since these postures require intentional engagement of the core in order to maintain balance. By forcing you to keep your back, neck, and shoulders straight, these positions will spare you a lot of discomfort.
It Burns Calories. On average, sitting burns about 60 calories an hour. If you tend to live a more active lifestyle, you may burn up to 130 calories per hour. In comparison, active positions such as standing or squatting can burn twice as much, averaging about 120 to 210 calories in an hour.
Don’t get us wrong. Active resting won’t get you the summer body you have been working toward, but it definitely won’t hurt either.
Improved Concentration and Productivity. Active resting doesn’t just improve your physical health. It can also help to keep you more alert. Since you are still keeping your musculoskeletal system engaged while you are resting, you are keeping your brain active as well. This means that you will be less likely to doze off or let your mind wander when you are squatting than if you were sitting in a comfortable chair.
Including Active Rest In Your Daily Routine
With all those benefits, you may be wondering how to go about incorporating active rest into your routine. Thankfully, it is a lot easier than you may have imagined. Here is a list of strategies you could use to tap into the many perks of active resting. And no, they don’t involve squatting at your desk (although that would definitely work).
- Switch to active resting furniture such as a standing desk or a balance ball chair.
- Make sure to take frequent breaks for stretching.
- Engage your core to maintain proper posture while sitting.
- Get up from your desk to walk around at least once every hour.
- Keep your legs moving when sitting to engage your calf muscles.
Active Resting, It’s Part of Living the #NewEarthLife
In the fast-paced world that we live in today, it is little changes to our daily routines that can make all the difference when it comes to our health and wellness. And with so many benefits, using active rest postures can do wonders for all of us. That is why we consider them part of living the #NewEarthLife.
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