NPR covers the homemade treadmill desk

Just spotted this story on the NPR website: Can You Move It and Work It on a Treadmill Desk?

The author cites an expert who says not to try to walk on the treadmill all day long. Instead, walk for a half-hour on the treadmill, then a half-hour off, and so on, for two to three hours a day. That’s a maximum.

Don’t know if that means two to three total hours maximum of walking, or two to three hours maximum of on-off. The wording implies the latter.

Even just standing the rest of the time might be enough to mitigate “the sitting effect.”  You are using your leg muscles, and that’s what seems to count most, from what I’ve read.

I liked finding out that someone is now an expert and is consulting with companies. There’s a new “walking meeting,” in which participants walk and talk.

Levine is on a mission to get any kind of movement into the workplace and the workday. He’s consulted with a number of companies nationwide to help them do this. The most popular activity by far, he says, is the “walk and talk” meeting. “They’re generally shorter, more productive, and people don’t fall asleep during walk-and-talk meetings.”

Also, during one study in which participants rotated on and off treadmill desks, the company earned its highest revenue ever.

The environment, he says, was simply “more dynamic.”

Yep, moving people are definitely dynamic!

12 ways to improve your health by sitting less (written while pedaling on a FitDesk)

If you commute (usually sitting) to a desk job (mostly sitting) and then go home and watch television (sitting) and/or spend a lot of time on your computer (sitting), even if you manage to work in an hour at the gym, your health is at risk.

You can Google to learn more about the science of this — and they’re just beginning to learn. I’m just here to give free advice on behavioral changes you can make.

To counteract all the sitting, you could consider:

  1. Cutting the car commute and work from home as much as possible. Seriously. Present this option to your manager as a way to cut their costs, improve your health, and therefore make you more productive!
  2. If you can’t avoid car commuting, every time you’re at a red light or stop sign or gridlocked in a traffic jam, stretch your legs, and tense and relax them several times. Really pull the muscles to the bone. (Okay, that’s the yoga teacher in me talking.) Point and flex your feet and rotate your ankles.
  3. Take public transportation and stand during your commute, a la New York City subway riders.
  4. Bicycle to and from work, or combine biking with riding the bus or light rail. Many now have bike racks available. You may want to request that your workplace provide showering facilities.
  5. At work, take frequent breaks (1-2 minutes every 20 minutes) to stand up and walk around. Set a timer and do it. Go get a drink of water, go to the bathroom, stretch, shake the tension out of your body, do a forward bend to stretch the backs of your legs. Walk to the best view from your building and partake of it to refresh your spirit.
  6. Sit on an exercise ball. You have to use your legs to balance. You can also bounce when no one is watching. It will strengthen your core muscles because there’s no back — you have to hold your torso up. This will burn more calories, if you’re interested in doing that.
  7. Instead of emailing, texting, or phoning, walk over to a colleague’s office to communicate with him/her. I know, I know, this is really analog, but it’s also refreshing. Think of how much more information you get from seeing their face and hearing their voice in person. You might even learn something about them from seeing their office decor.FitDesk
  8. Persuade your office to invest in a FitDesk. One FitDesk shared among eight employees sounds like a great start. I imagine 30 minutes in the morning and 30 in the afternoon would make a big difference in the health and longevity of those eight employees, especially if they’re doing some of these other things when not pedaling. Of course, if your office can afford it, get a FitDesk for every employee! If you can’t afford it, you could phase this in over time as finances allow, as employees using it report they’re feeling better, missing less work, being in better moods, and being more productive, improving the company’s bottom line. Hey, maybe this is the key to the economic recovery and the obesity epidemic! FitDesks for every employee!
  9. When you get home, turn off the TV and computer and do something that uses your legs: cook, go for a walk, clean house, garden, do yard work, do yoga, lift weights, kick box, have sex, play with the dog, take a shower, swing your kids around, give them piggy-back rides, roughhouse, dance, put on a show. Also known as “living life” and “being embodied”.
  10. If you can’t eliminate TV or video games or Facebook or whatever is so compelling on your computer (okay, blogging and Facebook for me), limit it to an hour (with a break every 20 minutes; see #5 above) and get up during commercials unless you are on your feet while watching. Or…
  11. Get a FitDesk for your home so you can move your legs while watching TV and being on the computer.
  12. Do this with other people. It will be more fun.

Making the world a healthier place, one blog post at a time…

Recovering from a pulled muscle, I apply my massage skills and heal. Voila!

A couple of weeks ago, I started self-training in running, and I was walking/running on the trail, building up endurance while avoiding fatigue and injury (so I intended). I’d done the warmups recommended by my trainer and felt really good in my running—lifting my knees, almost sprinting, feeling that great-to-be-alive, heart-pounding, hard-breathing experience of really challenging my body in a healthy way. I was loving the run!

Then, running up a hill, I pulled my left calf muscle. I immediately slowed to a walk, walked for about 10 minutes, and then (ruh roh), I decided it wasn’t so bad and ran some more.

Afterwards, I could feel the pull, but it seemed pretty minor. I could walk fine, without a limp. However, I did wisely decide not to run again until it felt really fine.

Six days passed, and I went to ecstatic dance, where everyone dances like no one is watching. I love this practice, moving to music, going with the flow, connecting with others, letting go, being part of the tribe. I can get pretty wild, jumping around with a big grin, leaping from foot to foot, being danced.

If you have no clue what I’m talking about, it’s like this:

The Power Wave

So anyway, while leaping about, I suddenly felt strong pain in my left calf. I limped to the side and did not feel like dancing any more.

Thinking it was my gastrocnemius (the superficial calf muscle), I had a massage therapist work on it that afternoon. I was still limping badly afterwards, although definitely more relaxed. I went home and iced it, and then…

 A massage magazine I’d been reading was next to my bed. I picked it up and saw there was an article by Dr. Ben Benjamin on the soleus, the deeper calf muscle. It included diagnostic tests, and I verified that it was my soleus muscle that was injured. (The image shows it without the gastrocnemius.)

Guess what? It could take 4-6 weeks to fully heal. That was depressing.

Benjamin (who also wrote the fantastic reference book about muscle injuries that belongs in the home library of every athlete (in my opinion), Listen to Your Pain) gave instructions for “friction therapy” massage, stretching, and strengthening. I also put ice on it, several times a day at first and now just once a day right after I do the clinical protocol.

My leg went from maybe 15 percent to 85 percent functional within a week. My limp gradually lessened, day by day. The calf still feels just a bit tight and tender. My hunch is that the last 15 percent of healing will happen more slowly.

Anyway, I feel really empowered about using clinical massage on my own injury and seeing (and feeling) rapid improvement.

I am ready to apply that to others.

Reframing trauma recovery as detoxing the whole system

These days I’m thinking of trauma recovery more and more like detoxing.

We all know people — or even do this ourselves — who do fasts or cleanses to rid their bodies of toxins from too much sugar or alcohol, meat, or junk food, after taking drugs, after food poisoning, and so on. I’ve written about the colon/parasite cleanse and the liver/gallbladder flush on this blog. I’ve also done the Master Cleanse, once.

There’s a lot to be said for cleansing for getting rid of recent toxins as well as those that have accumulated in our systems over the years. The proof is feeling better afterwards. If you don’t feel better after doing a cleanse, don’t do it again. Try something else. Be good to your body. It works hard so that you may live and is taken for granted a lot.

Well, trauma recovery is like detoxing your entire system. It’s not so much getting rid of the toxins in your digestive system as letting the harsh, non-nourishing behavior and events that your whole system took in make their way back out of your system.

It may not be pretty, but it’s actually a good sign — it’s so much healthier than keeping it locked up inside, repressed, frozen.

I’m thinking now that there is a natural period after you are safe when you detox, unless you get stuck in a situation with no support for your detoxing, and that’s another story. You have a basis of comparison — safe versus non-safe — now. Because you are safe, you can start to relax. You might want to think, “Whew, that’s it. I’m safe now and can get on with my life.”

Well, that is true, and you will start to bloom. But you might not be prepared for stuff from the past unpredictably sneaking into the present and biting you on the butt. You might not be prepared for intense emotions that may arise. You might not be prepared for the cognitive reframing that occurs as your identity changes from victim to hero of your own journey.

You may sometimes feel pulled in various directions. It is unsettling.  It’s good to find a physical outlet that grounds you. Yoga, bicycling, and walking were all helpful to me. Those things are healthy to do anyway, but it really helps to feel like you have control of some part of your life (your body) at a time when your mind/heart/spirit are in such flux. Exercise/movement is grounding, and the sweat help you detox. Your system wants to release that stuff.

You may reach equilibrium that feels like a few days of inner peace, and then something else — a memory, a dream, a trigger — may come up for you to experience and integrate, bringing you to a new equilibrium, and that cycle repeats, with the periods of equilibrium getting longer and longer. Actually, it’s life.

You  eventually reach a state where the past pretty much stays in the past unless you decide to delve in.

My advice: Let it arise as it arises, because it will do that anyway. It’s a process; it takes time. Notice and honor it. Document it, even — at least write down your dreams.

And it might be good to let a few people know. Ask for help if you need it, and definitely ask for support. You have mine.

More on the power of standing

Stand Up, Walk Around, Even Just For ’20 Minutes’: NPR.

Terry Gross interviews Gretchen Reynolds (see my previous post  The easiest shortcut to health you can make) about her new book, The First 20 Minutes.

Reynolds recommends standing for two minutes every 20 minutes while desk-bound — even if you can’t move around your office. “That sounds so simple,” she tells Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross. “But that actually has profound consequences. If you can stand up every 20 minutes — even if you do nothing else — you change how your body responds physiologically.”

Reynolds says prolonged sitting affects diabetes, weight, heart disease, and brain function.

She talks about other new wisdom in regard to health and fitness, including stretching before a workout, warming up, running, walking, hydration, and more.

Tips to counteract a sedentary job

If you have a desk job that requires a lot of sitting and you’re concerned about the health risks now being associated with prolonged sitting, here are some things you can do that require no expense:

  • Use a timer to remind you to stand up and stretch and walk around every 30 or 60 minutes. Google “timer” to find a virtual timer you like. Aim for a few minutes of non-sitting movement every hour.
  • Find ways to walk more: Place your phone away from your desk, so you have to stand up and walk to it to make or answer calls. Use a small cup for your drinking water or beverage of choice (or fill your regular cup partway), and when it’s empty, get up to refill it. Don’t use the restroom that’s closest to your office — walk to a more distant one. Instead of emailing colleagues, walk to their offices to talk, when feasible.
  • Breathe fully and deeply, using your abdomen, moving your ribs front, sides, and back. Do 5 of these breaths, then return to normal breathing.
  • Take a yoga class on your lunch hour. Or do desk yoga (Google “rodney yee 4 minute”  to see videos of Rodney Yee doing seated sequences). You can evendo cat-cow ever so often while sitting: curl your spine forward and back a few times, exhaling when you curl forward, inhaling when you arch your back.
  • Close your door or put on your headphones, turn on your iPod or a music video, and dance!
  • Fidget and wiggle. Especially move your legs.

When you’re not at work, avoid sitting as much as you can:

  • If you drive to work and your car has no lumbar support, place two tennis balls inside a piece of pantyhose with a knot in the middle and at the ends. Put it behind your lumbar vertebrae and press into it as you drive. It will feel great — and you’ll know when you’ve had enough.
  • If you watch television in the evenings or on weekends, stand, use your treadmill, or bounce on an exercise ball while watching. If you sit, get up and move during commercials.
Sit on an exercise ball at work instead of a desk chair. It strengthens your core, improves balance, improves flexibility, burns more calories, and requires you to use your legs. You can get them for under $20. Get a 75 cm for the most height. 

All of these tips can make a difference, helping to lower blood sugar, triglycerides, cholesterol, and waist size; improve posture, breathing, and metabolism; and decrease back pain.

“If there’s a fountain of youth, it is probably physical activity,” says Yancey, noting that research has shown benefits to every organ system in the body.

Next: standing desks.

Graphic showing why prolonged sitting is unhealthy

Here’s a graphic showing the health risks of prolonged sitting, which I’ve blogged about before:

Besides the reasons shown here and described in the NY Times article link, here are a couple of more reasons why prolonged sitting creates dis-ease and why movement is good for you:

  1. The lymphatic system aids the immune system in destroying pathogens and filtering waste, and it delivers nutrients, oxygen, and hormones to the cells. It has no central pump, like the circulatory system. Instead, the lymphatic system depends on muscular movement, breathing, and gravity to move lymph throughout the body. Frequent movement is critical to move lymph. 
  2. Walking moves the sacrum, which acts as a pump for cerebro-spinal fluid, the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. Cerebro-spinal fluid nourishes, removes toxins, and cushions the brain and spinal cord. 

Next, tips if you have a job that requires sitting.

12 states of attention

Update: This post was originally written in 2010, and it’s now 2018. Some things have changed. Nelson Zink has (mostly) retired and taken his website Navaching down, although you may be able to find it again in the future. I’ll let you know here when it’s up again.

You can get a used copy of his book The Structure of Delight on Amazon.

If you’re a fan of Nelson Zink and in particular his work on peripheral vision and nightwalking, you might be interested in attending a nightwalking training in August 2018 in Taos, New Mexico. Nelson will be co-teaching it with my friend Katie Raver. Details for Nightwalking are here.

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My most recent post, Refining Awareness, includes some instructions about using your vision to focus down to the pixel level, and then to open your vision and let everything come into your field of vision.

These activities are actually based on a set of exercises called the 12 states of attention that I learned about and practiced and presented on, so that now I seem to have internalized them enough that I don’t consciously think about it.

The three main senses we use are seeing, hearing, and feeling, or visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. NLP 101.

Each of these senses can be experienced externally and internally. For example, I can see the computer in front of me, and I can close my eyes and remember the image or imagine the computer morphing into a piano. That’s Visual External and Visual Internal (remembered and constructed).

You can further expand your sensory acuity by practicing using each sense as broadly and as narrowly as possible. Hence, look at a pixel, then let everything come in. Those states are Visual External Narrow (VEN) and Visual External Broad (VEB).

You can do this with hearing as well. You can focus on one sound in your environment (or in your memory or imagination), and you can focus on all the sounds.

A man I’ve never met but who has been a teacher for me came up with the 12 states of attention. His name is Nelson Zink, and he’s got a pretty amazing website, Navaching. Click here to read about the 12 states of attention. He’s got a lot to say and says it well. (And check out his other pages. It’s pretty fascinating. I also do nightwalking. And read his book, The Structure of Delight.)

The point is that through our conditioning, most of us come to favor some states and neglect others. If you enjoy having more resources, you can practice these states and gain awareness skills. You never have to be bored again, and you will reach more of your potential!

So when I meditate and do a body scan, I may bring to awareness my skin, starting with my head and slowly going down my body to my foot, bringing each area into awareness (Kinesthetic External Narrow).

Or I may attend to how my head, chest, and belly feel (Kinesthetic Internal Somewhere-Between-Narrow-and-Broad).

When I do whole body awareness, I am using the Kinesthetic Internal/External Broad state of attention.

(The convention is that the skin is the boundary between external and internal for the kinesthetic sense. But because my energy body radiates through my skin, my skin isn’t really a boundary, so I’m sensing internally and externally at the same time.)

The kinesthetic sense may actually be a lot of senses, including balance, knowing where my foot is in space, temperature, tactile, muscular, and so on. Emotions are usually classified as kinesthetic as well, since we feel them in the body.

Anyway.

Wisdom is a broad state, no matter whether we’re seeing the big picture, hearing the cosmic OM, or feeling connected to the Source. Big Mind is a broad state, and that’s a skill gained from meditation.

Check out Zink’s website and practice the exercises given, if you like. It will bring you gifts of knowing yourself and experiencing more of your full potential.