021: Chad & Brenda Walding on the Problem with Sitting

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Sitting can be worse than donuts and a sitting solution
Wellness Mama » Episode » 021: Chad & Brenda Walding on the Problem with Sitting
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The Wellness Mama Podcast
021: Chad & Brenda Walding on the Problem with Sitting

Chad and Brenda Walding join me on today’s podcast to explain how sitting can be one of the most harmful things you do each day.

You’ve probably seen the headlines…

“Sitting is the New Smoking”
“7 Ways Sitting Will Kill You”
“Sitting is Taking Years Off Your Life”

…and you may have hoped it was media hype.

Sitting is Worse Than Donuts…

It isn’t hype. More and more studies have come out proving how bad sitting is EVEN if you work out regularly.

Here are three important studies about sitting…

Study One: Sitting causes premature death (especially in women!)

Alpa Patel (PhD), an epidemiologist at the American Cancer Society, tracked the health of 123,000 Americans between 1992 and 2006. The men in the study who spent six hours or more per day of their leisure time sitting had an overall death rate that was 20 percent higher than the men who sat for three hours or less. The death rate for women who sat for more than six hours a day was about 40 percent higher.

Study Two: Daily Exercise Doesn’t Reduce The Threat Of Sitting

Marc Hamilton, Ph.D, Professor, and inactivity researcher at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, has published 12 studies on the topic of sitting. Each one has proven how dangerous modern sitting is. Here is a summary statement on why typical exercise isn’t a solution…

“People don’t need the experts to tell them that sitting around too much could give them a sore back or a spare tire. The conventional wisdom, though, is that if you watch your diet and get aerobic exercise at least a few times a week, you’ll effectively offset your sedentary time…this advice makes scarcely more sense than the notion that you could counter a pack-a-day smoking habit by jogging. Exercise is not a perfect antidote for sitting. Sitting is hazardous. It’s dangerous.” — Marc Hamilton

Study Three: Sitting increases risk of mortality, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome risk factors, and obesity.

In an extensive study (2007 Nov;56 (11):2655-67. Epub 2007 Sep 7) the evidence concluded that sitting was a “…potentially major clinical and public health significance…the dire concern for the future may rest with growing numbers of people unaware of the potential insidious dangers of sitting too much.” (Emphasis Added)

Scary huh?

If you’re like most people, sitting isn’t really something you can just stop doing.

But here is the good news…you don’t have to.

Today’s podcast guests,  Chad and Brenda (Doctors of Physical Therapy) have spent years behind the scenes working on a solution for their patients. It combines the positive studies of Activity Thermogenesis and their expertise in Physical Therapy to gently reverse the negative impact of sitting inside your body…and it works even if you HAVE to sit all day!

They are sharing their solutions on this podcast episode and I know you’ll learn a lot from them.

Resources We Mention

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Katie: Hi, and welcome to the Wellness Mama podcast, where I provide simple answers for healthier families. Did you know that men and women who sit for more than 23 hours a week are 64% more likely to die from heart disease, and 30 minutes to an hour of daily exercise is not even enough to counteract the negative effects of prolonged sitting.

In fact, today’s guest, Chad and Brenda Walding, who are doctors of physical therapy and health and wellness coaches, are here to talk about just that… About sitting and the negative effects that it can have on us, and also how to counteract that.

So Chad and Brenda, welcome. Thank you so much for being here.

Brenda: Thanks for having us, Katie.

Chad: Yeah. It’s great to be here. Thank you.

Katie: Thanks for being here. Yeah. To start off, I would love to know, how did you guys get into this area of specialty? Is there a personal story there or is it something that you saw in a lot of clients? How did you come to start researching this?

Chad: Well, it’s something that we see in our practice a lot. So you mentioned that we’re both physical therapists and we spend a lot of time treating people with spine issues. So herniated disc and bulging disc. Headaches. Shoulder pain. Hip pain. All of that.

It was interesting. We started seeing a pattern there. The people, they weren’t coming to us because they got into some car accident or some traumatic injury. It was really that they were just sitting all of the time. So we started noticing that a lot in a lot of our clients, and just in the blogosphere lately, like, the past three years, we’re hearing this whole sitting is the new smoking, sitting contributes to heart disease and cancer and all of these big issues.
We looked a little closer into those articles and what they were saying as far as solutions or suggestions around the topic. We felt that there was a lot more to the issue that wasn’t being addressed because mostly it was about kind of get up and just start moving around. That’s definitely part of the issue, but we as physical therapists see a whole lot of things going on. We saw an opportunity to really share that, so that’s what it was all about.

Katie: Yeah. I definitely agree. I have seen those articles too. A lot of them, they seem to really bring out the problems with sitting. But they don’t really give you some good solutions. So I’m glad we’re going to talk about that today. I know one thing you talk about in your book is that chronic sitting is a blind spot for a lot of people. So what do you mean by that? How do you explain that?

Chad: Yeah. So when we think about blind spot I think most people think about when they are driving down the road and they look in their rearview mirror or their side mirror, there’s an area where they can’t quite see. So there could be something there, but they don’t know it’s there. It’s essentially something that you don’t know that you don’t know.
What’s really cool about this… Especially the past five years, is that we are, as a culture, especially in the health field, is we are uncovering all of these blind spots. We’re noticing things around nutrition. We used to think that saturated fat was bad and red meat was bad and grains were healthy. Now we’re sort of realizing that if we eat more according to what we’re designed to eat, a lot of these issues go away.

Then it sort of presents this whole equation. There’s this big health formula out there that’s about eating and moving and stress levels and digestion and less toxicity in the home, but there’s this other component to it that not a lot of other people understand or see because we have all been doing it. It’s sitting. We have been doing it since we were children. As soon as we’re brought up and five, six years old, we’re put behind a desk and we’re told to sit still. We stay there all through school and we start working there and we live there. Over time it affects us in many, many different ways. Physiologically, emotionally, and it contributes to a lot of the pain that we’re having. So it’s something that we just want to bring more awareness to and give some people some tools to help out.

Katie: Yeah. Absolutely. Let’s delve into that a little bit more specifically. So what are the problems and issues that you guys have specifically identified that can be associated with sitting too much?

Brenda: Yeah. So, as physical therapists, this is something that has been definitely a big part of our practice. It’s seeing people that are experiencing acute and chronic pain due to sitting. Most people have experienced that where they sit… They are cranking out something on the computer for six hours or they are at work all day and their neck hurts, their back hurts. That is pretty common. People really resonate with and understand that.

The second thing is a decline in functional mobility. So what that means is, we have had also the experience working with the elderly population. So we see people… We have seen younger to middle aged who… The elderly, as they go through this life, have things change for them. A lot of them decline in their ability to move. So this posture, you can kind of picture this slumped, forward head, rounded shoulder posture. What it creates is a lot of… What people don’t realize is a flexed spine creates loss of mobility in the shoulders. We have a lot of patients that can’t even reach up into overhead cabinets or to touch their head any longer.

The center of gravity begins to move forward and people begin to lose their balance. They have to start using walkers and canes at a much earlier age than they would like to. So a decline in function. The third one is development of chronic disease conditions. Katie, you mentioned there was a link to chronic sitting and heart disease, which is huge. That’s one of the biggest killers that we have going on in this country.

So other issues associated with chronic sitting, and when I say that, I mean about six to eight hours a day is what we’re looking at as far as chronic sitting. It’s associated with an increased risk of obesity, heart disease, like we mentioned, and type two diabetes and cancer. All really, really devastating chronic disease conditions. And the fourth one being increased in mortality risks. So dying at an earlier age.

The fifth main problem associated with chronic sitting is it can negatively impact our emotions, behaviors and hormone levels.

Chad: Yeah. That’s what I think is most fascinating. If any body has checked out the Amy Cuddy Ted talk, it’s amazing. She talks about how your body language affects hormones like testosterone and cortisol and it effects how others perceive you, and that gets reflected back to you in terms of how you see yourself. It’s just fascinating stuff. You can put yourself in a better position, in a more upright posture. She calls them positions of power. It will make testosterone levels go up and cortisol levels go down. If you get in that slumped position, and she calls them powerless positions… You see the inverse effect. So a lot of things are going on with our bodies that we’re just beginning to figure out. It’s really fascinating stuff.

Katie: Yeah. Definitely. I know everything I have seen up to this point is… The proposed solutions to too much sitting are things like interval walking or taking a break and running up and down the stairs or just getting a standing desk, or that we just need to improve our posture. I know the idea of having a bouncy ball for a chair, like a yoga ball for a chair, was a popular idea too. But you guys actually write a lot about this. So talk about why those are all maybe good things to do, but why they’re not enough and what else you are supposed to do.

Brenda: Yeah. The things you mentioned, we want to emphasize those are all great, great solutions and great things to incorporate into your daily sitting routine. Getting up and walking, using a standing desk… All those are good things. But we feel like, to address the entirety of the problem, all those five things that we mentioned earlier, that those aren’t enough. What I mean by that is there are two main issues that we feel that need to be addressed here and that’s the issue of stagnation and adaptation.

So the first one, stagnation, a lot of those solutions will remedy that. So when I say stagnation I mean, problem being, we’re not moving. We’re sitting there for six to eight hours and we are just not getting up and not moving. So a lot of the research around chronic disease and mortality is associated with the problem of stagnation. Physiological changes are occurring in our body because we’re not moving. So things like negatively impacting triglycerides, blood pressure, the fat burning enzyme, skeletal muscle, lipoprotein, lipase. Lots of different biomarkers are negatively affected from stagnation. Cholesterol, things like that.
So that’s one of the big factors. The other issue is an issue of adaptation, which a lot of these solutions aren’t covering.

Chad: Yeah. When we hear adaptation a lot of people think of it as a good thing. Like, if I go to the gym and I start lifting weights my muscles will get strong, my bones will get more dense.
But it can also have the opposite effect. For instance, if I go into outer space, where there’s no gravity, my muscles get weak and my bones will get weak. So our bodies will start changing according to the stress that it’s getting from its environment.

When we’re sitting all the time, what we call living in a flexion based society, where we’re always kind of bending forward, texting on our phones, driving our cars, sitting on the couch, our bodies get adapted to that position because we’re never living in that upright posture that we’re supposed to have. So certain tissues are going to get really tight and then certain tissues are going to get really elongated and weak. So that gives you a framework to look on.
So when we were coming up with a solution we had those two obstacles in mind of adaptation and stagnation, and how can we come up with something that addresses both these issues and looks at what we need to improve on?

Katie: Yeah. So what is the solution and how do you propose to fix the problem that you just mentioned with sitting too much?

Brenda: Yeah. So we have created this program, what we call The Sitting Solution, also based on research looking at, basically, getting up and moving every 30 to 45 minutes to break up that stagnation for a period of 2 to 4 minute intervals. So that’s addressing the issue of stagnation.

The other piece is that adaptation. So in that two to four minutes we are going to be moving in specific and purposeful directions. So Chad mentioned muscles are getting weak, certain muscles will get tight and certain joints will get restricted. So based on our expertise in what we see, we know the pattern of that slumped position. We know what muscles need to be stretched, what muscles need to be strengthened. So we basically address the stagnation piece by moving every 30 to 45 minutes for a period of 2 to 4 minutes and then moving in specific directions so that we can counterbalance, counteract the negative consequences and forces that occur when you’re sitting for prolonged periods of time. Does that make sense?

Katie: Yeah, definitely. Like you mentioned, the majority of the solutions offered just fix the problems of being stagnant and not moving.

Brenda: Right.

Katie: But it makes sense how you would need to balance the muscles. I know I have done some training with different trainers who focused on functional movements and making sure the body was moving correctly in both directions and that that was a big problem.
I know it was a problem for me. Because of sitting, both nursing babies or with my job, some muscles were tight in places they weren’t supposed to be and they were long in places they weren’t supposed to be. So that’s great that you guys address both sides of that.

Chad: Yeah. I think it’s super important in terms of the adaptation piece in terms of experiencing pain and loss of function. So just a little bit… We talk about how an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Just a little bit of intentional, purposeful movement and knowing exactly how to move and in what particular way to move can pay off hugely in terms of headaches, pain and just optimizing function as you age.

We all want to be vibrant and healthy as we get older. It’s definitely possible. Just a little bit of knowing what to do and actually doing it. So we created this wonderful program. We always say we want to empower people to take an active role in their health. We have created this program. You guys actually have to go out and do it. You actually have to implement it for it to pay off, but it is definitely hugely helpful for us, just the knowledge that we have had.
I used to have chronic headaches in graduate school and in college, actually, before I became a physical therapist. I as on Vioxx, which is now off the market, which is scary. So chronic headaches. Studying all the time. Wearing backpacks. I just had so many muscle imbalances and I was covering it up with pills. It’s just so empowering to know now, hey, just doing a little bit of work a few times throughout the day… I don’t struggle with those headaches. I’m not on meds anymore.

We see the vicious cycle of what can happen when you have a pain and you start to cover it up with medication and leading to other addictions to pain meds, side effects, taking medications for the side effects of those meds and surgeries. We see those patients. So we try to really emphasize that it’s so much easier to prevent a disease or an ailment than it is to cure it. This is an amazing preventive program for people.

Katie: Yeah. I love that. I remember when I used to work when I’m with clients on nutrition, and some of them would hit a kind of plateau. We would go back and look at their dietary journals. They actually weren’t doing all of the stuff that they knew they were supposed to be doing, and in their head they said they were doing. But it was, like…

Brenda: Right.

Katie: …You do actually have to eat the vegetables to work.

Brenda: You actually have to do it.

Chad: You can’t just think about it.

Katie: That would be great, though, if we could figure that one out.

Brenda: I know.

Katie: But yeah, we actually have to do it. So what are some of the most important things to address, then, in terms of avoiding the negative consequences of sitting? Can we take it to a practical level of what do we actually need to do then?

Chad: Yeah. Absolutely. So if you can imagine that sitting position, right? The slumped poor puppy dog posture, oh woe is me, sitting on a computer, right? Let’s think about the spine first. When you fix the spine you sort of fix everything else. We’re supposed to have these nice, upright, people call them S shaped spines. We live in a world where we have more of a C shaped spine.

So if we go from the top of the spine down to the bottom we spend a lot of time with our neck protruding forward, right? One vertebrae over the other, always protruding forward closer to that thing we’re always looking at, and what we want to do in that area is start retracting that back, right? So we do a lot of things that we call chin retractions, or chin tucks, in order to get people to mobilize those joints in the vertebrae to start moving in the other direction.
Then, with the thoracic spine, that’s the mid-back. You’re going to think right below the neck going all the way down to the top of the low back. That’s an area where we’re always bending forward and never bending back enough.

So we call that the one thing of the spine. If you want to address one thing with your posture that sort of fixes everything else and makes fixing everything else easier, it’s the thoracic spine. So that’s always bending forward. We want to bend that back, and around that whole upper segment our pecs are getting tight, specifically our pec minor, pec major… The front part of the shoulder is getting very tight and that draws the tissue forward. The muscles in the middle of the back in the lower part of the trapezius get very elongated and weak.
Our rotator cuff muscles get very elongated and weak, and that’s why we have a lot of… Specifically women, actually. I see a lot of women getting rotator cuff injuries and they are just typing away on the computer. So those are areas that, while you are sitting and while you are working, and really just for general physical health, you want to spend a lot of time strengthening up those muscles in order to keep an upright posture.

Some areas of weakness that we experience are the core, the glutes, the low back and the hamstrings. All areas where we get incredibly weak because we’re sitting all the time and not activating these muscles. So it’s because we don’t know how to activate these muscles that we start to develop poor movement patterns. So people start picking things up with a rounded back or they squat with a rounded back, and they just do not know how to activate those muscles.
So it’s important to choose activities where you force those muscles to turn on and you can relearn those patterns and start moving correctly.

The other issue, the front part of the hip, people have extremely tight hip flexors. So the hip flexor is a group of muscles that attaches to the lumbar spine. It kind of comes in on your femur there. When that’s tight that causes a tilt in your pelvis. So we encourage a lot of activity where you can open up the hips and stretch out the hip flexor.

Then going all the way down is the ankles. So we have terrible ankle health in this country because we have been wearing cushioned shoes and high heeled shoes and we’re never putting our feet in a position where it’s truly expressing the full range of motion. We’re not interacting with the ground. Our feet are getting weak. They are getting very tight and it’s causing a lot of people to have plantar fasciitis. They just lose proprioception with the ground. They start losing balance because of that. So we encourage people to wear more flats, do a lot of things to open up the ankle, stretch out the gastroc and the soleus, the Achilles, and loosen up a lot of that tissue and encourage barefoot walking as much as we can, or at least walking in flats.
So those are kind of the general principles. What we do is we choose movements that do all of that. We’re looking for movements that have the biggest bang for their buck, right? So we can make things quick and effective and get in and out and kind of go on with your life.

Katie: Yeah. I know. I sit at a computer a decent amount, although usually I stand at my desk now. But for me, I noticed a big problem is I have been nursing a baby for a lot of the last decade. I mean, you have to hold the baby while you’re nursing him, so that position of leaning forward, I always get the tension in my shoulders and my neck and my upper back from doing that.
I would love for you guys to delve in and explain some of the exercises that you usually talk about to help reverse these things, and then how do you turn those into a program that also addresses sitting and all of these things?

Brenda: Yeah. So that’s just another activity that causes that flexion, and then even side bending to the side because you’re nursing on one side or the other.

So you’re getting, especially if you’re doing it consistently the same way, you’re going to have the same thing occurring. You are getting muscles that are elongated and weak and muscles that get tight. Specifically for that and similar to sitting, things like doing the thoracic extension exercise right after you are nursing. So I’ll go ahead and explain what that looks like. It’s a simple exercise. So it’s putting your feet flat on the ground in the chair and then sitting upright all the way, reaching your spine long and keeping your chin gently tucked in. So you want this nice upright posture. Then you will place your hands interlocked behind your head, not pulling on the head, but just placing it behind the head with your elbows facing forward.
Then, from that position, you will basically look up trying to point the elbows up to the ceiling and sticking your chest out.

So that really helps to extend the thoracic spine, which was continuously and perpetually flexed. Whether you are sitting or you are nursing, it’s sort of bent over.
So I would say right after… That’s what Chad was saying. If you fix that one thing it helps the head and the neck feel better and the shoulders better. So really focusing on the thoracic spine and then there are multiple other things as far as just picking one. Did that make sense, Katie?

Katie: Yeah.

Brenda: Okay. Cool.

Katie: Definitely. Yes.

Brenda: So that’s a mobilization of the thoracic spine. There are a few things we call spinal hygiene, which is basically what we recommend people do every single day multiple times a day just to take care of their spine, much in the same way you would brush your teeth or bathe yourself.

You really do have to take care of your spine because we flex it so often. You need to turn around and extend it multiple times a day just to stay balanced and to stay healthy.
So the other thing would be a chin tuck. So in that same position, same starting position, another one of our spinal hygiene exercises is staying in the upright position and taking two fingers and placing it on the chin, and then retracting the cervical spine. So that’s the neck. You’re basically pushing the chin backwards while you keep your nose parallel to the ground.
So you’re just pushing straight back, basically making a double chin. So that really helps that forward head position where you kind of have to crane your neck forward or even look down when you’re nursing or even on the computer when you are craning your neck forward.

That will really help to stretch the suboccipital muscles at the base of the skull and is really effective for headaches and for tension in the neck. So those two exercises with any activity that you are having to kind of bend forward is really good to do. Essentially, breaking up that activity or right after that activity. We do it when we’re… Well, we do the chin tucks while we’re sitting in a car at a red light. You can just kind of fit those little exercises in whenever you can.

Katie: Yeah. Those are great ideas. After hearing this, and the more I read about sitting in general, it makes me crazy that kids have to sit still in school for so long. So in an optimal world I wish they would incorporate some of your ideas into school, especially as they cut out recess more and more and times when kids can move. But I know a lot of the moms listening actually home school.

Brenda: Yeah.

Katie: So can we talk about, can these be adapted for children? Can these be done as a family? How can these be worked in so little ones get the benefit too?

Brenda: Yeah. Absolutely. I think you would be doing your children a huge service as far as… Now we know not only your muscular skeletal health, the health of their bodies, but also their physiology as far as decreasing the risk of chronic disease. There’s so much I think that you can learn and make it fun doing different positions. They don’t have to be sitting slumped over at a desk to learn something.

Yeah. All these exercises that we’re talking about, the majority of them can be adapted to kids and make fun… Some of them are very similar to animals. They have animal names like bird, dogs. There are different exercises in our program that I can see could just be made really fun for kids.
So I think that jus
t adding it into something. You think science is important, math is important. I’m not even sure exactly what people do when they home school. I’m sure they probably get up and move around a lot more than you do at a public school. But I think that the opportunity there is huge to do a lot of these movements and incorporate it into the fitness time or the PE time or even just while learning other subjects. So I think when they’re playing you can incorporate a lot of these different movements. They are very functional.

Katie: Yeah. Absolutely. I think another big sector of my audience is pregnant women. I know from experience… You mentioned before about sitting can cause your hip flexors to be tight. I had really, really long labors with my first few children. They said it was partially because I’m a very tense person in general, but my pelvis muscles and my hips were very tight. With my last pregnancy my labor was 10 hours shorter than any other labor.

Brenda: Wow.

Katie: One of the things I had done differently was incorporate things like those types of movements and even things like squats and just walking and just more movement during the day. So can we talk a little bit more about hip flexors and maybe specifically to support the hip flexors?

Especially for a woman who might be pregnant. I know you guys aren’t necessarily pregnancy specialists, but what can we do to support our hip flexors?

Brenda: Yeah. Well, I think the hip flexors, yes, and the hip and pelvic region in general. So you want… I think some issues that people have even conceiving is just stagnation in that area. So tightness. Lack of blood flow in that area from not moving from chronic sitting.
So stretching the hip flexors, yes. Opening up the hip capsules themselves. So just good range of motion in the hips in general. So when we sit a lot we lose our ability to extend the hips, and also the pelvis floor can get tight and restricted. It can also get very weak. So weakness is also a big issue.

So the deep core muscles and the hip muscles need to be strong. So if you’ve got good movement in the hips, good flexibility, but also strength in the pelvis and the pelvis floor and in the hip region, you’re going to have an easier time with labor. Even conceiving. I have known some… There would be an issue at times, like I said, that lack of stagnation. Maybe even scar tissue. Maybe even tightness. That’s limiting people from conceiving as well.

But specifically, just a couple of things I’ll throw out there that is huge to improve hip mobility and a lot of those things I was saying is the womb squat. I know people call this different things. They think, like, primal position or a yogi squat. But we think this is one of the best exercises, not just for preparing a woman’s body for labor, but also just for health and longevity in general.

So it’s really good to improve digestion and really good to open up the hips and the ankles. So that is really getting down into a deep squat to where your hips and your buttocks are below your knees. So just sinking down into that position. A lot of times people will have to hold onto something at first to get their hips that low. A lot of people’s hips and ankles are so tight that they can’t get down there.

But it’s really, like, starting with your feet a little bit wider… Hip width apart and toes out just a little bit, and dropping your buttocks all the way down between your knees, keeping your knees out and in line with the middle of your feet. If that makes sense, Katie. Does that make sense?

Katie. Yeah. That makes perfect sense.

Brenda: Okay.

Katie: I can attest that it is hard. You have to learn to use those muscles the right way again, but it really feels great when you get used to it.

Brenda: Yeah. It’s something that it does. It at first may seem, like, wow. You can also think of babies. So you look at babies and it’s so natural for them. When they are playing they can sit in that position. Well, that’s what they will do. They will squat down and they will just be playing with a toy. They will be in that position forever and that’s the way that we were designed, for our mobility to be that way, for our hips to be open and for us to have that kind of range of motion.

Then, over time, as a consequence of how we live in our society and the things that we do, we lose the mobility. So maintaining that mobility… If you imagine doing that every day, or most of the days as you age, how much more function and how much less pain you will have.
We see this position in other countries where the elderly will be able to still get into this position. It’s where they would cook and clean. In places like China and other countries, the elderly are still able to get into this position. I know the majority of my patients that are in their 80s are never even close to get into this position.

Yeah. I think I was talking to somebody else on another podcast and he was talking about how he knew some six year olds that couldn’t get in that position just because they had been sitting so much at desks. So that’s a really fun position for kids. That’s something that’s also really great for women that are getting ready to conceive.

I would say at the end stage, the last trimester of pregnancy, you probably don’t want to get in that position too much. You want to just do that sort of at the beginning. And in preparation for conceiving just to kind of open up that hip area. Then I will have to include, like, a strength exercise like a plank. Getting into a high plank or up on the elbows really strengthens the core, the glutes. You get a good global strengthening of all of the muscles that really need to have that support; the back, the hips, the core, to have a health labor. So those are kind of two examples, but in many more… Also, stretching the hip flexors is also a good one. Those are kind of some examples maybe for your audience to look into.

Katie: Yeah. That’s great advice. I know I got to see a preview of some of your course and you have some great, really practical examples of how to actually use these and incorporate them. Obviously, just not sitting as much is a good step too. I know we talked briefly about things like standing desk and treadmill desk. I know some people listening that might not have that option if they work a job where they are required to sit. But some people listening also do have the freedom to kind of make those choices. So obviously the movement is a huge, key part of it. But if you were going to create an optimal work environment, what would that look like for you guys? Would it be a standing desk or a treadmill desk or no desk? How would you guys do it?

Chad: I think if it was optimal you would have both options. There’s actually some standing desk out there…

Brenda: Yep. There are.

Chad: …That you can push a button and it elevates for you. So you can sit at it and then stand at it. Either one could be a problem over time. There’s this big huge movement towards standing desk and I think later on we’re going to be, like, “Maybe we should go back to sitting.”
Brenda: Well, I mean, there’s still the issue of adaptation there. You’re still, no matter… If you were doing it for six to eight hours, you’re still going to start to bring your head forward as you are typing on the computer. There are still going to be issues around that. So it’s still a great thing.

Chad: Yeah.

Brenda: And this is what we do. We do physical therapy part time and then we also sit down and we write blogs and we wrote this book. So we spent a fair amount of time on the computer.
What ideal for us looks like is being able to stand, being able to sit, and then we do this concept that Chad can go into more detail. But it’s called Grease the Groove, which I think is an amazing concept for moms. I’m not a mom yet, but hopefully we will be getting there pretty soon.

Chad: We have a puppy, though.

Brenda: We have a puppy.

Chad: She’s, like, a year old.

Brenda: Yeah. That doesn’t count. But we’re getting there. So, yeah. The concept of Grease the Groove. So when we’re working we will get up and move every 45 minutes or so and we will do these little couplets that we kind of talk about in our Sitting Solution book where we’re doing two to four minutes of work, or maybe it’s five minutes, six minutes, whatever we have time for in our particular area. But we’ve got a kettle bell, a foam roll, trigger point balls and we’re able to pack in five minutes of work and space them out throughout the day. That is ideal.

Instead of feeling like your head is throbbing and you’ve got these huge knots in your muscles and your back is killing you from focusing all day and sitting in this horrible position or standing up, you actually feel rejuvenated. You get your heart pumping and you’re doing that multiple times a day, which is optimal, we think. That’s what we do when we’re working from home and we’re working on the computer as we get up and we use minimal equipment to perform some of these exercises that we talk about in our book. Do you want to talk about grease..?

Chad: Grease The Groove? Yeah.

Brenda: Does that make sense?

Chad: Yeah. You nailed it, babe. That’s good. But it’s basically just moving frequently and doing short interval workouts throughout the day for, like, two to four minutes and keeping that movement pattern in line with your body. So learning how to push, pull, squat, bend. Getting a good core contraction. Doing those types of things for about two to four minutes, maybe even five minutes every hour, every couple of hours.

It helps you reinforce what your body is supposed to be like in terms of your structure. You’re still going to have that aerobic workout, strength workout all in one, and then when the day is over it’s not like you have to go to the gym. You have been working out all day. That’s another thing to consider. A lot of people have this mindset, like, “Well, I’ll just do my thing here and go to work and sit in the office or I’ll take care of the kids all day and then I will go work out for, like, an hour.” You have to think about what your body has been doing all day when you’re stagnant in these poor positions. That’s really what your body is adapting to for those 23 hours that you’re not working out as opposed to that one hour that you are. You want to do more frequent movement throughout the day using those functional movements, those patterns that you are designed to, so that you maintain functional longevity throughout your life.

Brenda: Yeah. I think that some people may argue, “Well, I don’t have time to get up and move. That’s too hard. I’ve got projects and things,” and I would argue that you can’t afford not to as far as your longer term health and your overall wellbeing. I would also say that, generally speaking, when you’re getting up and you’re moving like that and you’re getting blood flow, you actually are more creative, more productive, because you’re not in that stagnant position.
It affects your physiology, as we know from the research. So I’d say that it actually helps productivity if you are disciplined enough to do it.

Katie: Yeah. I agree. It’s a great solution. I’m sure you guys have seen the research too. But there’s so much right now out there saying that short intense body weight resistance or high intensity exercise is more beneficial, even, than an hour on the treadmill.

Brenda: Yes.

Katie: So you guys are incorporating that and breaking up the sitting. So it’s a win-win.

Brenda: Yeah, and its very time efficient. Probably for your audience too, Katie… I have a lot of friends that are moms that have one, two, up to four kids. They are, like, “I just don’t have time to work out.”

Katie: I know.

Brenda: I’m, like, “You’ve got five minutes when baby is napping to bust something out if you know what to do and you know how to do it.” You just have to take the time. I think it’s a really good concept. Grease the groove, or for mom’s it’s, “Hey, let’s just bust out a couplet in four minutes.” You can even watch the kids if they are content and playing and bust this out or get them involved in some way if they are a little bit older. So I think it really is a great idea for moms and all people, really.

Katie: Exactly, yeah, or even while you’re cooking dinner.

Brenda: Yeah.

Katie: Just take a break from stirring. Every 30 seconds when you pop up just stir the food and work it in that way.

Brenda: Exactly.

Katie: One thing I know that I have started doing that I love, my doctor is a big proponent of getting outside early in the morning to get the blue light from the sun to help with your adrenals.

Brenda: Nice.

Katie: So I love, weather allowing, and getting outside right when I wake up and just doing some kind of easy movement that’s not huge or strenuous. I’m not sprinting, but just something where I’m usually barefoot outside on the ground and moving, and getting the benefits of the sun and the clean air and all of that. That’s an easy one that you can do maybe before your kids even wake up. So just fitting it in like that.

Brenda: Yeah, exactly. Also mentioning, going back to hip opening… Great for those wanting to conceive or just, like, gentle movement. There is a bonus that we have on the Sitting Solution called Pain-free Joints. This is something I like to do. It’s just a 10 minute routine of opening up your joints from your toes all the way up to your head.
It’s kind of just a sequential routine. Like I said, it’s really gentle. There’s one routine that’s for those that can stand and those that can’t even get out of a chair. So your 90 year old grandma is she can’t get up, she could do this in her chair too. But it’s just another tool that she can use. If I don’t have time in the morning to do a workout or something, I at least do joint opening from toe to head on a daily basis. Just another little tool that might be helpful for some.

Katie: Yeah. That’s great advice. On that note, we’ll have to link to it in the show notes for sure where they can find those guides.

You mentioned you guys have a free guide of how to start incorporating these things. So we’ll make sure that that link points there and that everyone listening can get access to that and find out more about everything you guys do in your systems.

One question I usually ask in the end is… So for someone who is listening who may be is sitting all day long or who has a lot of these problems, what is the quick start steps? Where would you have them start and what baby steps are good to jump into this?

Chad: So I would start with definitely addressing the thoracic spine. That’s the area that, if you fix that, you make fixing everything else a lot easier. What we mean by that is just start extending the thoracic spine, putting your hands behind your head, elbows forward, extending up, and then strengthening that entire area in the back that gets so weak and so elongated using a TheraBand. A TheraBand is a great tool. You can purchase one on Amazon or we can provide some links for you on a lot of our YouTube videos. But some great ways to strengthen up a lot of the muscles in the back, in the middle of the back or the low back and the shoulders that get very elongated and weak. And then in general just start incorporating some movement. Getting up and moving every two to four minutes is a great start so you can prevent that stagnation and adaptation.

Katie: Perfect. Yeah. That’s great advice. Thank you both so much for your time and for being here. As I mentioned before, we have a link where people can find out more about you and get your free guide, which is wellnessmama.com/go/sitting, and we’ll make sure that that points to a page where they can get the free guide and find out more about how to incorporate these systems into their lives. Thank you, again, both of you, for being here. Thanks to all of you so much for listening.

Brenda: Yeah. Thanks, Katie. One thing, our Sitting Solution program… Basically, all the concepts that we’re talking about will launch October 13th. So basically it’s a very in
depth book and guide on using a lot of the principles that we’re talking about so that you can have an exercise program for you from your nine to five job every 45 minutes… We’ve got really specific programs whether you work from home or you work in a cubicle, no matter where, what kind of office space, there’s a program for you, whether you don’t want to use any equipment or just minimal equipment.So that is Sitting Solution and you can find more about it at the link that Katie just gave you.

Katie: Awesome. Thank you guys so much, again, for your time. I think we got some great information today and I’m definitely going to be making some changes based on your information as well, so thank you so much.

Brenda: Thank you.

Chad: Thank you, Katie.

How much do you sit? What do you do to mitigate the symptoms of sitting?

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Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. WellnessMama.com is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


13 responses to “021: Chad & Brenda Walding on the Problem with Sitting”

  1. Athena Avatar

    I would like to thank you for sharing this amazing content with us. The most important point in the content is ‘Exercise is not a perfect antidote for sitting’. Solution to this is lower the sedentary time. Also, one can use a Standing desk.

  2. Jocelyn Avatar

    These guys really should change the strategy to sell the program. I finished listening the podcast super motivated and ready to get more information, but then I got to sittingsolution.com and all this sensationalism and how many time they told me “super offer, buy now!” 🙁

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar

      I’m not a fan of that type of selling either, but the information they have is still excellent, even if their style of selling is different than what I’d prefer…

  3. Karen Avatar

    Great topic! At the end of the podcast you mention a “free guide” for podcast users (in addition to links to the Sitting Solution Program) but I do not see any “free guide” … where can I get it?

  4. Diana Avatar

    Hi Katie! I just found you today after hearing your interview on Underground Wellness. Great stuff here!

    I’m an eLearning developer and sitting at a computer all day has wreaked havoc on my body. I’ve spent the last year trying to undo the damage. We recently created a short module on Why Sitting is the New Smoking so this particular blog post really spoke to me….
    Thank you for sharing your wisdom!

  5. Megan Avatar

    I’m a total TV and computer addict… I know I have a problem. I also thought that exercise helped… oops. This is one of the MANY reasons I will not be sending my son to a public school. 1/2 an hour a day to run around, while the other 5 hours stuffed behind a desk is NOT the way children were meant to live! I will be working on myself, and hopefully an early intervention for my son.

  6. Kylie Burnside Avatar
    Kylie Burnside

    Just came here specifically after hearing you and your health recipes on Underground Wellness last night. Thanks for sharing these! I’m looking forward to trying out these more natural remedies! 🙂

  7. chanelle Avatar

    I use a ball chair and I find that helps a lot. I also try to get up and move at least once every half hour while I’m working. And when I’m not working… I’m a mom, so I’m up and down all the time, lol!

  8. Jennifer L. Avatar
    Jennifer L.

    Need the headlines *always* be so dire? Sitting will kill you? Can I add to that list? Getting in a car will kill you. Eating dinner will kill you. Breathing will kill you(indoor/outdoor air pollution, anyone?). Stress will kill you. Not exercising enough. Exercising too much. If all that doesn’t kill you, Ebola will. If not Ebola, well certainly a war. If not a war, maybe the next earthquake/flood/nuclear disaster. It’s good to educate people that sitting is perhaps not the way to spend a life. Yeah, it can have negative health consequences that are preventable. The stress that sitting is going to kill me is going to kill me to. I can add one fact to all of this–dying is a guaranteed part of life. The emphasis should continue to be ways we can make our living part more enjoyable and positive. Not sitting around fretting about how x, y, or z is certain to kill us early.

    1. Jennifer L. Avatar
      Jennifer L.

      Ha! Donuts–I can definitely relate to sitting being worse than donuts and it doesn’t trigger the “dire” stress points in my mind.

    2. Ashanta Avatar

      This comment is right on. I can’t stand those dire and doom titles splashed across a blog, or a web page. Everytime I see that I quickly scroll down to see the predictable “Buy my book!”

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