We evolved to stand upright. Our ability to move at speed with our head remaining still made us incredibly successful hunter gatherers. 2 million years of evolution is hard wired into our body. Every function from our heart, blood vessels, bowels and brain improves with good upright movement. Now we hunt and gather using keystrokes.
Sitting and using technology has a negative effect on our health and new research is now confirming that sitting has an even bigger impact than first thought.
To fully understand the impact we need to dip our toes into a bit of brain science. The brain is the hub of everything we do. There is a reason it’s protected by the skull. It is the single most important organ we have. What’s the evidence for that statement? Have you met anyone who has had a brain transplant? We have mastered organ replacement and even organ growth with stem cells, but the brain is out of scientific reach for now. Its complexity is another level.
Yet this complexity can be boiled down what I call ‘Two Jobs’.
The first job the brain has is to assess every bit of information arriving (100-250million bits /second) in the context of the threat. Simply, the brain is asking ‘Is this a threat?’ If you are crossing the road you use your eyes to assess of your proposed crossing. Every half second your brain is asking is that a threat is that a threat, is that a threat.
The second job the brain has is movement. No animal, plant, cell or any living thing can live without movement. Your movement starts in the thinking brain then passes into the unconscious automatic brain. Back on the road, you perceive it is now safe to cross and you set in motion the programme to walk across.
Your brain is constantly evaluating what’s happening so it can firstly survive and then secondly move. This is hardwired into deep nerve networks and is the hub of your basic health.
Sitting is removing a key ingredient to brain and body health. Movement informs your brain about where you are in space and time and stimulates the brain. Without good stimulation, your brain degrades and your health follows.
As we move from the floor to our hands and knees and finally to our feet, our brain is building a map. A virtual movement map. This is a 3D map of itself in space and time. It’s our movement and awareness map. The scientific word is proprioception. Movement receptors, not unlike those in your smartphone, constantly feed data back to the brain about where you are. There many other receptors that contribute the map (vision, hearing, touch, pressure, temperature and chemical) but for most office workers these are controlled by facilities managers so you are comfortable and no threat exists.
Sitting switches off key movement receptors. Without a signal, the map starts to fade and blur. We lose our ability to touch our toes, squat deeply, reach behind our back or look over our shoulder because the map for that movement is 1950’s black and white TV instead of 4K 3D full colour. When you finally do head to the gym and do your 60 min workout moving into those faded and blurry areas can be perceived by the brain as a threat or worse it totally forgets it can actually do it! You probably blame ageing or not stretching enough but the reality is your map is not complete and the time sitting using tech did more damage than a mere lack of stretching.
Changing your health by working with your brain
This is why it is vital to inject movement into your workday. I created Shape Break to help the movement be easy, focussed on the areas you need most while respecting what the brain best responds to.
Your brain is plastic which means it can rewire and update its maps. The key to this is making the movement specific, in the right areas and with out triggering the threat sensors.
That is what we do here at Prohab.Leave a reply →