Q: How long do you think a 4-5 year old can sit still?
A: Trick question. Little kids shouldn’t sit still… their bodies know better than that!
Picture a preschooler or kindergartner in a school classroom at a tiny desk with cute little chairs. A fat blue pencil or box of crayons and a coloring book. How long will the typical kid, when granted the freedom to choose on their own, sit at that desk and draw or write? Help me out parents- 4 minutes, 9 minutes, perhaps a LITTLE longer if they are really focused or totally into a new Hello Kitty or Transformers coloring book.
If they are at home, what do they do next? Stand up, bounce around the room a bit, maybe run back to the paper, write their name, add a flower to the picture of the 2-dimensional house and smiley faced sun, seek out a sibling to play with, start making up a game or continuing a scenario previously left unfinished. Then they see something shiny or interesting, move towards that- turn the pages, kick the ball against the wall- spontaneously twirl around in circles.
If they are actually at school- the hope is that the teacher recognizes the hard-wired need that kids have to simply move their bodies in space. The reality is often otherwise- especially as children progress into upper grades. Class periods become longer, time seated at desks increases, no more sitting on the carpet or moving around to centers in various parts of the room. Recess is cut back or eliminated completely- not even mentioning the absence of PE programs.
Fast forwarding through middle, high school, college and into the workplace: where are YOU sitting right now? When was the last time YOU stood up, twirled in a circle or otherwise moved your body through space? I am not suggesting specifically that you should do cartwheels amongst the cubicles, though I am entirely in favor of that… but I AM saying you probably have been seated in one single position longer than you anticipated… and definitely longer than your BODY probably wanted to be sitting!
Do you recognize the tightness in your hip flexors? Have you noticed the slumping of the shoulders and disappearance of the soft curve in your lower back giving way to a rounded hunch? Perhaps you are thirsty and decided over 20 minutes ago to get up for a drink and you are STILL sitting there answering email. Or maybe even have been putting off a bathroom break to squeak out just a little more work.
How crazy is that?
At this moment, my back is sweating through my shirt- up against a leather recliner in the corner spot of a coffeeshop. I want to go somewhere cooler, but I also want to finish this paragraph.
Mentally, we are ignoring the body telling us it wants to DO something. To be moved. It wants to be fed, hydrated, emptied, stretched, unwound, its position altered. A simple change of scenery or adjustment in space. We are fighting the instinctual need to move… and unfortunately, it is pretty easy to tune out the internal message and push forward, denying the movement the body craves and NEEDS. Thus setting up an insidious link between the brain and the body that says,”I will sit here and do what needs to be done, even if it kills me.” And eventually for most Americans it does!
This is where I talk about Cardiovascular Disease, Obesity, Diabetes and other Diseases of Lifestyle Choice. I am done talking about that stuff now.
According to the Surgeon General’s 1996 At-A-Glance fact sheet on Physical Activity and health… “People who are usually inactive can improve their health and well-being by becoming even moderately active on a regular basis.”
No shit. Earth shattering. Of course it sounds overly simplistic (and I did take one single line out of context) but most people… scratch that… almost all of Americans- are “usually inactive”. But what does that say about our society that simply getting out of a chair and walking around a little bit would amount to enough of an increase in physical activity that it would improve health and well-being?! Not to mention allowing some time to get up and get a drink, take a leak, stretch the legs and give the fingers a break from the key board or telephone.
Next time the brain interprets a signal sent from the hip flexors or between the shoulder blades that says “get up and move!” Pay attention to it. Overcome the automatic suppression of the mind over the physical needs of the body. And next time you overhear someone or even yourself say to a young kid, “Sit still!”- reflect on the fact that the child is simply responding naturally to what his body is telling him to do.
now… GO OUTSIDE AND PLAY!
(a repost from my Go Outside and Play blog in mid-2009)
Tuesday’s WOD at 6, 7, 9am and again at 4 and 6pm
Back squat 3-3-3-3
Thruster 3-3-3-3 (from ground)
4 attempts at max L-sit holds (on rings or parallettes, scale to h-sit)
Post loads and total time in holds to chalkboard/journals
Tuesday 5pm Open Training Hour