Okay, Sibylle, what the heck are you on about? Like, literally “getting up”? Right now? Why? And what on earth does this have to do with passion(s)?
I’ll explain it all, if you bear with me and do what nobody does on the internet: read. All of it. The entire article. If you must, grab a cup of tea or coffee to get you through it. Can you do that? Good.
Because this might be the most important article you read this year.
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My rude awakening
I’ve always been, shall we call it, a sedentary person by nature. I like sitting and I like doing things that are done sitting down: Playing the piano, reading, eating, gaming. I also like moving, being in the forest doing archery, or taking extended walks through nature. Dancing.
I’ve been blessed with fairly robust health. But this year, in early summer, I developed a curious pain in my chest. It really hurt to breathe, especially in certain positions. After entirely too many covid tests, being sent to the ER twice by my caring doctor, on suspicion of an impending heart attack and later possible lung cancer (after an x-ray showed what might have been a tumor), going in and out of hospitals for weeks and having every test in the book, including a CT scan of my lungs, the result was: Nothing major is amiss. Phew.
I was still in pain, though. So my wise and very perceptive doctor sent me to physiotherapy, because I had mentioned sitting a lot and having bad posture.
I’ll cut the long story short and tell you that I’m pain free now – I was lucky and the damage was still reversible. What it took, however, was not just physio exercises. No, it took something I’m still working on and am still doing rather imperfectly: it required changing my lifestyle.
“Sitting is the new smoking”
In the course of looking up what could possibly be wrong with me, I came across the bestselling book Deskbound: Standing Up to a Sitting World by Dr. Kelly Starrett, who coined the now-famous line “Sitting is the new Smoking”. I could basically stop writing now if you just went and got this book, because Dr. Starrett explains it so much better than I could.
It turned out that my chest pain was muscles and fascia pain. It came from sitting for hours upon hours, and was exacerbated by often not even sitting up straight. I used to think that doing archery and yoga and working out would counteract the negative effects of sitting, but it really doesn’t: The book even mentions professional athletes who train 3-4 hours a day and still develop the same problems because they sit pretty much all the rest of the time.
Sitting is literally killing people. If you’re like me, your reaction at this point is: Gulp!
Don’t wait until you have to do something
As with many health-related problems, this one might seem minor or something you’ll “get around to” until suddenly, you must because you’re ill or in unbearable pain. Been there, done that, 1/10 would not recommend. It sucks.
We’re all here because we’re Wild Spirits who are in the process of creating our lives deliberately from a place of passion, joy, and purpose. And it’s very hard to be happy when you’re in pain.
Sure, I know people who suffer from chronic pain and who still carve a lot of happiness out of their lives. After only a few months of pain, I admire them so much. But try and tell any of them that you’re doing something that’ll guarantee you major amounts of pain down the line, and you could do something about it and don’t – they’ll think you’re crazy.
Get up, now
What it boils down to is that you need to reduce the amount of time you spend sitting every day. But how do you do that, especially when you have a job and/or passions that require sitting? The book has some excellent suggestions, and I warmly recommend getting and reading it. In the following, I’ll list three of my favourites – however:
My biggest insight from all this is that I don’t need to be perfect. I still sit too much today. But even just incorporating the small changes I mention below, has made a huge difference. This is one area where it’s definitely not all or nothing.
3 small changes you can implement now
- Get up at least every two hours. Come on, even the most stressful of jobs gives you the chance to do that (and if it doesn’t, do yourself a favour and find another job)! Get a cup of tea. Go to the bathroom. Walk over to a colleague and chat. If you’re at home, boogie around the room to your favourite tune (that’s what I do). At the very least, stretch and shake out your legs before you sit back down.
- Change positions. Again, if you can’t do this at work, do it when you’re at home in the evening and again sitting down. Lie on your belly for a bit, or on your back. I’ve done coaching sessions with clients on Zoom lying on my belly on the couch, or standing up with my tablet in front of me on the book shelf. Find ways; be creative.
- In the medium-to-long term, look into any or all of the following: A daily walk of at least half an hour; a standing desk; desk-chair alternatives such as a gym-ball seat or a saddle chair that changes the 90-degrees “angle of doom” between your torso and your legs when you’re sitting down. There are desks which are adjustible in height, so you can stand up for half an hour, then sit for an hour, etc.
Again, you needn’t be perfect, you don’t even have to much reduce the time you spend seated, as long as you’re being smart about it and implement some of the things I mentioned. You want to be able to write your novel, paint that picture, study that subject, ride a horse, or whatever your passion may be, for many years to come. So get up, now! Small changes can help you ensure that you’ll be able to.