It’s absolutely obvious that we sit down too much and that prolonged sitting is affecting our physical appearance and our ability to live a healthy life. In 2014 an average adult spent up-to ten hours per day seated, increasing their mortality rate by 34%.
Daily time spent seated is also directly associated with an elevated risk of cardiovascular disease.
Furthermore, physical degeneration caused by prolonged seating is increasing so dramatically that over 80% of Australians will suffer back pain at some stage in their adult life due to their sedentary lifestyles.
Recent studies show that too much sitting contributes to a host of diseases ranging from obesity and diabetes to cancer and depression.
Sitting literally shortens your life.
In fact, sitting has now been classified as being as dangerous as smoking by the world health organisation.
“The facts are in: your chair is your enemy, and it’s disabling your body and destroying your health!”
Problem is, it’s becoming exceptionally hard to avoid chairs for modern day corporate professionals. Worse still, most gyms and health clubs seem to encourage using assisted machines that require you to sit down to operate them.
This doesn’t help the sitting problems. It makes it worse!
Physical degeneration occurs because the human body has an amazing ability to adapt to the environment you repeatedly expose it to.
If your daily environment is spent mostly in a chair, (or worse), slouching in the chair, then your adaptations will have a negative impact on your body physically, other than the obvious lack of energy expenditure.
The angle of your pelvis and shoulders change, adapting to the shape of your chair. This adaptation causes some of the muscles in your neck, chest, pelvic region, lower back and legs to shorten.
Consequently, this shortening can affect the function of your spine and may even expose you to a higher risk of degenerative wear and tear causing an injury.
I imagine seeing hundreds of you adjusting your posture to sit up straight, as you read this …
If so, GOOD! You’re listening …
So, how do we stop this from happening, or reverse the affects if you’re already experiencing symptoms?
Don’t sit down at your health club!
That’s for sure.
Most assisted exercise machines found in health clubs actually force your body into the same position you sit in for the rest of your day. For this reason it makes absolutely no sense to increase your exposure to the exact issue that’s causing your health problems.
Doing so may even increase your chances of injury and create more of a problem because you are now stressing the body, under load, whilst slouching.
First, let’s take a quick history lesson and look at why assisted gym machines were invented in the first place.
Assisted exercise machines were originally designed in the early 70’s to reduce the overheads of running a gymnasium. The hard fact became evident when the concept of physique improvement through resistance training became popular.
Free weights (barbells and dumbbells) required skill and correct technique to use safely. Thanks to popular body builders like Arnold Schwarzenegger, we suddenly saw an increase in un-experienced people flocking to gyms.
Facility owners now had to employ staff that had the experience and qualifications to teach novices how to use the equipment properly. The cost of running a gym quickly increased and the industry reacted, the assisted gym machine was born.
American company Nautilus Inc. manufactured the original assisted machine, which was designed to mimic free weight movements with minimal supervision.
Since the original Nautilus circuit hundreds of new companies have emerged, each with their own versions of assisted exercise machines, each attempting to simplify human movement and reduce the need for supervision. But is that a good thing? Are we meant to only move in one direction, controlled by the boundaries of mechanical pulleys and pivot arms?
I, and many of my colleagues in the health industry don’t think so. As a result, the fitness industry is again in a paradigm shift, and trending towards free weights and whole body movements again.
Worldwide, equipment companies are racing to keep up, designing innovative machines that allow the individual to exercise using more functional, whole body movements, still, with minimal supervision.
The argument that free weights and functional movements are far superior to assisted machines is supported by the fact that one of the world’s largest exercise brands Technogym recently spent millions of dollars designing a revolutionary functional training system called the Kinesis.
In biology, Kinesis refers to a movement or activity of a cell or an organism in response to a stimulus. The Kinesis allows the user to move in any direction using an elaborate, free flowing cable pulley system.
This system is now being used by some of the top-level professional sports training facilities and many good gyms are embracing the concept, again giving strength to the principle of free weights and free flowing functional movements.
A colleague of mine, who is the head physiotherapist and founding program developer at The Western Sydney Giants AFL Club, Leroy Lobo agrees, saying,
“the use of functional movements and free weights when exercising is definitely the optimal way to go.
“I personally utilize a variety of different training equipment and have included the Kinesis in the Giants training facility. When training my athletes I prefer to keep them moving on their feet because it mimics the environment that they will be expected to perform in on the field. I believe that these principles (if coached correctly) should be embraced in mainstream gyms and training facilities. Functional movement is more effective than common assisted machine circuits.”
Leroy has been involved in the training of athletes in the USA and Australia since 2000 and in my opinion, is possibly the best physiotherapist in the country.
If you’d like to learn more about Leroy and what he does you can check him out at The Centre For Sports Medicine (CFSM).
At Unity Gym we use advanced mobility, gymnastics and calisthenics style training methods coupled with traditional weight lifting to get people moving again.
Calisthenics is another great way to exercise whilst using your whole body. Instead of resistance generated by cables, or free weights, the concept is that you challenge yourself through a series of movements using your own bodyweight to create resistance.
This style of training has been made even more popular in the USA by famous actor Jason Statham, who always seems to present himself on-set with an incredibly lean and ripped physique. Recently, calisthenics has exploded onto the Australian fitness scene with Crossfit often utilising aspects of the training principle in their workout of the day (WOD).
If you would like to see what it’s all about, head down to my facility in North Sydney and see the Foundation Movement System in action. Many of my clients are quite literally learning how to defy gravity whilst exercising.
In my professional opinion, the most effective exercise is done when training in an environment where you are coached to move properly, utilizing functional strength training and mobility movements with a combination of free weights and calisthenics.
Using this methodology will not only burn more energy and help to maintain a neutral calorie balance, which will mean you stay lean, it will also leverage functional movements that get you up, out of the seated position and capitalise on the incredibly unique physiological movement systems you have within your body.
The muscle systems that provide your balance, core strength and posture.
I have been working as a health coach since 2004 and have successfully improved hundreds of people’s health and the way they move using this principal.
So, when choosing your training facility, I suggest you consider an environment that will change how your body moves in a positive way.
Gyms that encourage the use of traditional free weights over assisted machines are a very good place to start.
In addition, you should consider that assisted exercise machines that are common in large health clubs were never designed in the best interest of you. Instead, they were designed in the best interest of the club owner.
They’re designed to make money!
As the saying goes … “The more expensive the exercise machine, the cheaper the mover!”
Remember, the intention of the assisted machine is to lower staffing costs related to gym supervision. Don’t get me wrong! Assisted machines have a place in the gym. I personally use them on occasion in my facility to complement functional movements like the squat or deadlift.
They are also popular with some physical therapists when rehabilitating specific injuries or athletes who need to overload a specific muscle. Assisted machines are also popular with body builders who have a primary goal to create massive muscular tension and overload with minimal neural fatigue.
However, assisted machines should never be the foundation of an exercise program, especially when the goal is to improve movement or posture. The health coaches at Unity Gym work with our clients to teach proper movement again through a comprehensive Foundation Movement System.
My advice to anyone who is suffering from back, neck or shoulder pain or a decline in physical fitness is to avoid shopping for the lowest price membership. Look beyond the cheapest options because most of the time you will need some expert supervision to achieve what you’re after.
Attempting to do it on your own may actually cause you more harm than good.
Watch the short video to learn more about the Foundation Movement System practiced at Unity Gym …
If you’re in doubt, or would like to see why the Foundation Movement System is the better way to train, I encourage you to come and visit me at my boutique training facility in North Sydney.
At Unity Gym we provide a detailed battle plan for surviving the office chair and reclaiming your birthright of mobility and freedom from pain.
Our program provides creative solutions to reduce the amount of time you spend seated as well as strategies for the workplace that will improve your productivity and your overall health.
You will learn how to identify and fix poor posture plus, how to prevent, treat, and resolve low back, neck, shoulder, and wrist pain; and avoid and reverse repetitive stress injuries.
If you’d like to learn how to move properly again, fix back pain or just get yourself into the best shape of your life, then give me a call (02) 99226161.
Unity Gym is located at 20 Berry Street, North Sydney. For more information about myself, my training system and Unity Gym check out, www.unitygym.com.
Thank you for honoring me the opportunity to share my knowledge, and experience. If you know people who’d benefit from reading this article please pay it forwards and share.
I appreciate you!