While we are thick into the season of awareness campaigns, building immunity, mental and physical adaptations in a cooped up indoor environment, let us not overlook one more. Chronic back problems, the biggest lifestyle disorder suffered by millions all around the world.
Some say, “I am okay with slouching and bending down with a rounded back to pick up things. It just feels easy and comfortable.” Let’s face it, we are slaves of habit, creature comforts and love the easy-going life, where change is frowned upon, procrastinated and even prosecuted. Sometimes, people tell me, “If you give me an easy, comfortable solution, maybe, I can consider a slight alteration in my lifestyle.” Finally! There is light at the end of the tunnel. Soon there will be a world where breathing fresh air and stronger backs will be considered the new normal. But did I hear ‘easy solution’? I have yet to come across easy solutions that are long lasting.
Is easy always about external supports, posture correctors and belts that are flooding the market? I have even heard of posture corrector bras now made available. What one doesn’t realise is these external supports might help in one way, but might be disastrous in another. Much like the side-effects of steroids, these supports lead to physiologic atrophy, which is caused by not using the muscles enough. This type of atrophy can often be reversed with exercise and better nutrition. People who have seated jobs, those with health problems that limit movement, or those living a lifestyle with less activity levels succumb to this.
So, what can be done to break the chain? The constant aches and pains that return every now and then? Isn’t there an easy solution or way out? Breaking the chain of unhealthy lifestyle habits is simply called ‘Movement’. External support makes us weak, whereas, internal support holds us together. And, that is only possible through better and more movement. The human body was designed to move. Breaking this chain of habits is also seen in tech titans like Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey as they have taken a liking to walking meetings instead of seated ones. Burning extra calories is just the healthy side effect.
There are two mindsets: One is the easy way out, and the other is the road less travelled. I prefer to come up with my own ‘Made in India’ solutions. Since we are only as efficient as our ergonomics, anything but sitting feels good, not only for my back but for the entire body. Sitting is unavoidable at some point, but now I choose to stand on my anti-fatigue mat while I type this article, on my self-created ‘Made in India’ standing desk. I can easily alternate sitting with standing without discontinuing work. But I’d rather stand and work with a smile on my face as that hamstring stretch feels so good.
Some of the best ideas have come to many innovators while moving. Movement increases blood circulation that transmits oxygen through your cells and keeps the energy of thought at a higher vibrational frequency. If easy isn’t effective, I would reject it. Effectiveness should make me efficient. So while attending long discussions on Zoom, I keep a mobility stick handy, (just another name for a stick used to remove clothes that have fallen from the rack) to wring my spine in some feel good twists.
Since the spine is the backbone of our health, we are only as healthy as our next position. No more worrying about slouching and lower back pain as I do my back a favour by stretching out the glute. I also don’t need to remove special time for stretches anymore as I stretch while I work, and stretch when I don’t work. Stretching isn’t exercise, it is simply another position your body is trying to adapt to. I think I might consider this pigeon stretch as an option, while I read, or when I am busy on my phone. I choose to break the chain. Do you?
(Shikha Puri Arora is a rehab trainer, posture, ergonomic consultant and your support from injury to fitness based on real science. You can write to her at email@example.com)
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