As a new member of the MyMac.com staff I have come to know, if only casually through their articles and blogs, some of the great writers and talents that make our publication such a compelling organization. Some of these folks spend oodles of their time behind a computer in order to contribute their knowledge and expertise for all the world to see and hear. They do this voluntarily, with no expectations or grievances. And this is after working for many hours, in most cases, at jobs that put them behind that same computer.
Nowadays it’s common for a lot of people to spend several hours daily sitting at a desk, doing work that needs to be done, rising only to eat, or use the bathroom.
My wife is an example. She works for a very busy insurance office, answering phone lines, scheduling, tracking, writing letters and binders, and so much more. Out of her nine hour day she will occupy at least seven hours at her desk using the computer. I have spoken with her about the sedentary experience and asked her to try and get some exercise, or at least take breaks from time to time.
I’ve seen what a seat-potato lifestyle can do, especially as one gets older, and softer. The muscles become weak and tire easily. Skin takes on a pasty look, eyes don’t twinkle, and the respiratory system can stand little if any exertion. Just walking up a short set of stairs can cause a person to sit down, breathless.
As a massage therapist and lifetime musician (drummer and singer) I have some easy techniques which can reverse some of those negative effects and give a boost to your health. Before you roll your eyes into their sockets (your face is gonna freeze that way) ask yourself some questions and answer them honestly:
1. Do I easily tire walking up or down stairs?
2. Does my neck/upper back often feel stiff?
3. Does my lower back ache?
4. Do I munch on junk while I’m working?
5. Is it hard to get up from my chair?
6. Do I resent having to get back into my chair?
7. Does my lunch consist of fast food?
8. Have I gained weight over the past few years?
9. Why can’t I lose the weight I’ve gained?
10. Am I too tired at the end of the day to deal with my family?
I could go on but you get the idea. The reason you may feel some of these things is that you’re getting no exercise and you’re eating food that has no nutrition. I’m here to help.
To make your diet better:
1. If you have to snack, try dry roasted no salt peanuts, or nuts, raw preferably, with no salt. They are very nutritious and tasty. Yes, they contain some fats, but they’re the ones you need. Carrot sticks, celery, and other fresh veggies can help too.
2. Stay away from fried food. Period!
3. Do not eat white bread. Choose whole grains, as often as possible.
4. No margarine. Most are not as good as real butter. Try Earth Balance buttery spread, or another of comparable quality. Read the label. No saturated fats.
5. Stay away from anything with refined sugar. To sweeten your coffee or tea use Splenda or a sugar substitute of your choice. You may find, after a while, that you can do without the sweetener entirely.
6. No french fries or potato chips.
7. Do not stuff yourself. Eat slowly and quit eating when you’re satisfied you’ve had enough.
8. If you have desert try a piece of fruit. No cakes, cookies, or candies.
9. Drink water all day. At least 6 glasses. You’ll pee a lot and that’s good. It’ll also fill you up so you won’t eat as much. NO SODAS (soft drinks). All of them, diet included, are garbage.
10. Try to eat your largest meal at lunch and make dinner smaller. You’ll sleep better and feel better in the morning. No midnight snacks.
Begin with baby steps and proceed slowly. I know this may seem like a lot to change for some of you but it really isn’t. It’s common sense and the food actually tastes better once you loose the need for so much salt and sugar. If you require more help than this column provides, try the South Beach Diet Book. It is the best one of its kind and will help you with your health and weight better than any fad diet could even dream about. FAD DIETS DO NOT WORK!
The three principles of health are diet, exercise, and rest. The ten tips I gave you about diet are easy and fun to do. The exercise part can be too.
To get some exercise while working:
1. Take a break every fifteen to twenty minutes for just a minute or two. Get up, stand in front of or beside your chair, raise your arms above your head and stretch. Not too hard at first. If you haven’t done this in a while you could pull a muscle if you begin too eagerly. Feel the tendons begin to let go. They’re stretching (muscles don’t really stretch, tendons do). Bring your arms perpendicular to your body. Stretch, gently. Put your arms in front. Stretch again. Swing your arms in circles beside you. Change direction. Now sit down and go back to work.
2. On your next break try to bend down and touch your toes. Don’t worry if you can’t. It’s not important. Keep your knees bent slightly to take pressure off your lower back. Ease into it. Do not bounce! Easy does it. You’re not in a hurry or in a contest with anyone. This is all for you. After “touching toes” for a minute step back from the desk/table and put your hands on the edge in front of you. Keeping your back straight squat down, slowly, holding on to the front of the desk. When you reach the bottom feel your knees and quads stretching. Rise again. Do this a few times. Now get back to work.
3. While seated at your desk hold on to the bottom of your seat, where the arms of the chair would be attached. Sit up with a straight back. Pull up, pulling the seat into your seat. Then slowly ease off and let go. Do this several times. You’re exercising the biceps, shoulders (lateral deltoids), and traps (trapezius) and levator scapulae muscle groups. This should take maybe a minute or less.
4. If your desk is heavy enough try this: put your hands, palms up, under the desk in front of you. Sit up, straight back. Try to lift, slowly, and feel your biceps (biceps brachii) and abs (transversus and rectus abdominis) respond. Let go slowly and repeat. This should not take more than a minute.
5. Stay seated, push away from your desk, hold on to the bottom of your seat (like in #3) and raise your legs, one at a time, straight out in front of you. Make sure you’re sitting straight up. Lift, hold for a count of five, slowly lower. Do it with the opposite leg. You can do both legs at the same time but if you have lower back problems I don’t recommend it. Wait until you strengthen your hip flexors (psoas major and minor, iliacus) and quads (rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus intermedius, vastus medialis) a bit before attempting both legs together.
6. Try gripping your hands together at the fingers and pulling them away from each other while you hold them together. You can change the angle by keeping your hands close to your body, moving them way out in front, or raising them above your head or lowering towards your legs. You’ll see that you can experiment and make several exercises out of this one technique. These moves will strengthen back (rhomboids), rear delts (posterior deltoids), and triceps. You can also “push in,” strengthening the pecs (pectoralis major).
One could write a book about all the easy little exercises one can include in their daily routine but you wouldn’t read it. After all, you’re already tired of reading this. But you’ve come this far so hear me out.
When you begin to use some of these techniques in your routine I will guarantee you will, in only a couple of weeks, feel better, be stronger, sleep better, and be more raring to go at your job than before you began. The next step is much easier. And that is to make your lifestyle one that is more healthful, sensible, and causes a feeling of well being that you forgot is your right to feel. Remember how you felt when you were a kid? Bulletproof.
Don’t sell these simple steps short. If you’re out of shape and getting worse this could be an easy way to find your real, healthy self again. The next phase is to begin a light program of easy exercises set up as your daily routine to be done before you go to work. When you begin to feel better you will want to get more exercise. The action becomes self perpetuating.
One more thing. All of us Mac-o-philes love Macs because they work so well. There is real integrity in the way they’re made and how they operate. Should we not make an attempt to keep ourselves operating well, too? Dare I make a comparison here? Get some exercise, eat well, rest well, be like Mac. Sit, don’t move, eat crap, be like PC. Your choice.