Monday, January 20, 2014

Let Them Eat Spice Cake

A few years ago, I watched a very interesting interview of Victoria Beckham, otherwise known as Posh of the Spice Girls. She's also known for being married to English football star David Beckham:
Who is very cute. Not as cute as:
Anthony Howell, but cute nonetheless.

Really, I'm not very interested in celebrities. My exposure to them is mostly limited to perusing magazines at the hair salon, since I don't watch a lot of television and, quite frankly, don't get out much. But this interview really stuck out in my mind such that it's still taking up space in my memory that could be used for more valuable things... like where I last put my keys. Maybe if I finally write about it I'll free up some space?

They discussed fame a bit, and Posh said the nice thing about being famous is that it 'gives you a voice.' I found that kind of funny because I think this is the first and only time I had ever heard her speak. She mostly seems to model designer clothes with her signature pose: hip jutted out with lips puckered on her very severe, unsmiling face.

Also, the interviewer asked about Posh's thinness. Posh is pretty thin. She's not carrying around anything she doesn't need to. Assuming she doesn't have an eating disorder, this is impressive since the woman has birthed four children. She was asked about her eats and the conversation went something like this:

Random Interviewer: Victoria, you're very thin.

Posh: (doesn't say anything, smirks just a tiny bit because she is proud of herself, but smiling isn't part of her self-marketing strategy.)

RI: So... what do you eat?

Posh: I eat very healthy.

RI: Do you ever eat cake?

Posh: No.

RI: Not even on your birthday?

Posh: (Shakes her head. Doesn't speak. Assumes severe face and repositions lemon wedge between teeth and gums.)

RI: Never?

Posh: Nev-ah!

Really? Nev-ah? Wow. I did find this photo that she posted on her Twitter feed last year... on her birthday:
Indicating that she can, in fact, interact with cake in some capacity.

Still, I find her denunciation of cake to be fascinating because I like cake. A lot. I'm all about cake. I can't imagine nev-ah having cake. Of course, cake is a sometimes food. It's for special occasions, like birthdays and church dinners when my friend Ashley makes to-die-for cupcakes.

Really, I don't want to crack on Posh too much for not eating cake. It's not like you need cake to live. It is pretty nutritionally bankrupt and calorically dense, but it's a celebratory food, like champagne. You could also live without champagne, but why would you want to? It's for weddings and New Year's Eve. Of course, I went to bed at 9.30 on New Year's Eve with my hot water bottle and cozy blue robe. My small people do not respect the sanctity of such occasions and are up at their usual ungodly hour New Year's Day, but I still had some champagne. At 7.30.

Maybe she just doesn't like cake? The Darling Husband doesn't like cake. He's a pie guy. Maybe she eats pie? (Probably not.) Maybe she's just really disciplined and self-controlled and knows that cake will give her a sugar rush and make her heart pound and it's just not worth it, in which case I salute her. Though I'm willing to endure the mild heart-pounding for Ashley's cupcakes at the monthly church dinners... because, they're that good.

I'm not going to assume Posh has an eating disorder. While it's possible, I hate it when not-super-thin people assume super-thin-people have eating disorders. I think it's rude. I don't know her. I know, that's shocking to you, but really, we don't run in the same circles. Clearly, it's a choice that Posh makes because she likes the results. I might do the same if I were compelled by my career to sashay in little more than a slip down red carpets, which I understand on good authority can be 'terrifying.' And I believe it. 

At the end of the day, we all make choices. And we all have to live with the results. I eat cake from time to time, and other things daily that Posh probably doesn't eat. I'm not super-thin, but I'm fine. I'm strong and healthy and can do all the things I need to do, and pretty much everything I want to do. You just have to make your choices and be at peace with them. I also choose not to have cake in my house with any regularity because I'd eat the whole thing hiding in the kitchen from my children--which is also a form of disordered eating, by the way. So I keep cake as a sometimes food.

If Posh ever had the desire to end her moratorium on cake, I would suggest she take up blogging. She could still have 'a voice' without all the media scrutiny. Then she could have her cake... and eat it, too!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Why It's a Good Idea to Read Food Labels

Remember that old definition of insanity--doing the same thing but expecting different results? I might have come up with a new one--driving three hours to take a one hour barre class, then getting back in the car and driving home.

Yup, I trucked back down to Physique 57 Scarsdale yesterday, and came straight back. Look for it in the next edition of the DSM. My only defense is that I had a free class to redeem, and I simply can't let a free class sit on the table. The drive was actually fairly pleasant--I got to listen to whatever I wanted on the radio! No Thomas the Tank Engine Songs for me! Yay!

Of course, I'll tell you it was worth it--a burn worthy hour with Brady that culminated in an assisted stretch! That's when the instructor gently pushes you deeper into the final stretches. I love it when I'm the assisted stretch recipient. Lalalala....

Following class I was my usual disoriented self. In fact, I nearly forgot my purse, so I decided to float over to the grocery store before attempting to operate a motor vehicle. I was in the mood for some kind of drink... not the sangria kind, which naturally would not have assisted the motor vehicle operation, but something... I don't know... juice-y? Protein-y?

I settled on this fascinating concoction:

A quinoa smoothie! With blueberries! Goodness, doesn't that sound like dietary virtue in a bottle? There were all kinds of healthy buzz-phrases on the label... things like 'ancient grains' and 'vegan superfood.' What's not to love about that? It conjures up images powerful Incan warriors... a smoothie, of all things, that has withstood the test of the ages. Clearly, I'm a sucker for marketing. Post-barre lalalas don't assist in deductive reasoning.

I was excited to slurp down my 'super punch of nutrition' that included 'all nine essential amino acids' and was 'rich in fiber.' The only problem was the mild chocolate craving I was having. I didn't really want to get chocolate because I knew I was spending a total of six hours sitting in the car. Not exactly a calorie torching day, even factoring in what Brady had done to me.

Then I remembered something my friend and reader Deb told me--apparently chocolate milk has been determined to be a pretty decent recovery drink. It contains (according to Deb) 'the perfect balance of protein and carbohydrates for replenishing and restoring muscles after exercise and minimizing DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness.)' Before you spit out whatever you're drinking and decide I have taken complete leave of my senses, I should tell you that Deb is actually a registered dietitian. She admitted she hadn't thoroughly read the studies because she really likes chocolate milk and didn't want to jinx it, but Deb is a very sensible person, so I picked up a little chocolate milk, too.

Now for the moment of truth: the quinoa smoothie? YUCKY. Not yummy AT ALL. The chocolate milk? VERY YUMMY.

Then I read the labels.
Turns out the quinoa smoothie had more calories than the chocolate milk, about the same sugar content, and less protein, calcium and vitamin D. And by 'less' I mean WAY less. The smoothie had slightly more iron and fiber, but not much. It was also twice the price. Gah. I feel like an idiot.

When I got home, I did a little research into chocolate milk. One study tested chocolate milk as a workout recovery drink on nine cyclists. Each cyclist biked to exhaustion, then rested for four hours... and by 'rested' I mean they drank low-fat chocolate milk, Gatorate or another high-carbohydrate sports drink called Endurox R4. Then they they hopped back on the bikes and cycled to exhaustion again.

The chocolate milk drinkers performed just as well or better as those who drank the other stuff, and milk has the added benefits of calcium and vitamin D. Of course, there were only nine of them, so take that for what it's worth. I think the word has gotten out on it, though. I saw several chocolate milk trucks on the way home. It's a sign.

However, here's the sticky wicket--not every activity needs to be followed by a carb-rich recovery drink like chocolate milk. Or any recovery drink, other than water. These beverages are best suited to endurance-type activities, not so much a walk with a neighbor around the block, or even a nice thigh-toasty barre class. For many exercisers, recovery drinks are just unnecessary calories. My milk box was only 150 calories, not bad for a treat. So enjoy a little chocolate milk, but don't go crazy with it.

The moral of the story is that some things seem really healthy, but aren't necessarily better for you than foods you think of as... well, not-so-healthy. Though I would like to point out that my chocolate milk was 'produced without antibiotics, synthetic hormones and toxic pesticides.' It's also from farmer-owned Organic Valley, which means the cows all sit criss-cross-applesauce in a grassy field and sing kumbaya.

Marketing is powerful.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

This is Dinner: Encouraging Kids to Eat

My small people eat. A lot. People who see our kids eat are kind of shocked. One friend (the mother of a non-eater) was agog as she watched Darling Son #2 schnarf down several pieces of beef at a party recently. She said, "My daughter would chew on that for a half hour, then give up and spit it out." This child's father says she existed on air and water for her first two years of life. Another friend sat slack-jawed as I regaled her with tales of a typical breakfast for Darling Son #1, which is sometimes more than I eat.

They don't just eat a lot, they eat a lot of different things. They eat exotic foods from foreign lands. They eat bitter greens (sometimes.) They eat stinky cheese. They eat wild-caught salmon and pan-seared tuna. Actually, DS2 will eat absolutely anything--as long as it's on someone else's plate.

We get asked all the time--what do you do to get them to eat? How is this possible? What is  your secret? So I'm going to tell you, but I do so with some trepidation. I know it can be very stressful if your child doesn't eat. It's scary to watch him or her drop off the growth chart, or refuse to eat anything but Dino Bites. I know a lot of parents who try everything, but just can't seem to get their kids to eat. I know I'm blessed to have eaters, and I don't want this to sound preachy or know-it-all, because Lord knows, we don't. Sometimes it's not all about what you do. Or don't do. We seem to have this idea that if we just 'do the right things' our kids will comply. Maybe they will. Maybe they won't. They're human beings. They don't always respond to formulas.

So for whatever it's worth, here's what we did/do:

I breast fed both boys until they were ten months old. Then my supply just couldn't keep up, so both weaned themselves. It was hard, sometimes I hated it. Sometimes I didn't mind it. Mostly I wished the DH could do it, but hey--it's a womanly art.
I love this picture and I've been dying to find a reason to use it--Giselle breast-feeding while serviced by an entourage. If I had this kind of attention, I'd still be breast-feeding my six-year-old.

I'm not a lactivist, though. I think if you need to do formula, that's ok, too. The barre is a judgment-free zone, but apparently breastfed babies tend to be more adventurous eaters than their formula-fed counterparts. Evidently, the flavor of mother's milk changes depending on what mother eats, thus the baby adapts to different flavors. I don't know how they figured this out, but that's what I read.

I pureed my own baby food. Commercially prepared baby food is expensive and I'm cheap. Good Lord, I could make vats of pureed organic carrots for the cost of a few jars. Organic! I just boiled them, threw them in the blender and froze them in ice-cube trays. It was a pain, but I am entirely too cheap to buy jarred baby food. The reason I mention this is texture--jarred baby food is velvety smooth. Homemade has a lump or two. Lots of people cite texture as being a stumbling block to enjoying different foods. I'm wondering if maybe making lumpy food at home gets them over that? Maybe? I don't know. It's a thought.

I discourage snacking. Americans love snacking, but we're not newborns anymore--the vast majority of people don't need to eat every two hours. I'm not saying there isn't a place for a between-meal nibble, but the frequency with which my children are offered food is ridiculous.

Last summer I brought DS1 to his camp 'orientation,' which was basically a half hour during which the kids could get accustomed to the facilities so they weren't clinging to their parents' legs at drop-off. It was scheduled for 1.30pm. It was for only THIRTY minutes, yet they had little Dixie cups filled with Goldfish crackers set out for them to eat. Really? They just ate lunch. It's only a half hour. Why do they need food?

I really don't believe people need food available at all times. I read a study a while ago that said children will eat according to their natural hunger and fullness cues until around age 5. Then they begin to eat simply because it's there. We don't always need it there. So I'm not keen on snacking. I like to get them to the table nice and hungry. Then they will...

Eat vegetables first. Let's face it, broccoli isn't as yummy as other stuff. So I feed them the veg first. Followed by other nutrient-dense foods. If there is bread involved in the meal, I put that off until they've eaten vegetables. I mentioned this strategy to a mother who was struggling to get her child to eat anything other than hot dogs. She recoiled, saying that's using 'food as a reward.' Really? I don't get that. It's not a reward, it's just ordering the meal in a way to ensure the child eats the most nutrient-dense foods while she's hungry. So while I'm on the subject...

I don't mind using food as a reward. People have been using food as a reward since the dawn of time. It's only recently that we've had a childhood obesity crisis. I'm thinking it's not necessarily the food-as-reward thing that's a problem. It's not the only reward we offer, but sometimes good behavior is incentivized by an ice cream cone. Dessert is not offered until a reasonable amount of healthy food has been eaten.

I don't always require them to clean their plates. Like many (most?) people from my generation, this was required of me as a child, and as a result it is still very difficult for me to leave food on the plate, even if I'm full. So I don't make the boys eat everything I serve them. If they're full, they're full.

I do not cook a separate dinner for the small people. They eat what we eat, and always have, ever since they had enough teeth to chew. I'm kind of old-school. This is dinner. I do take people's preferences into account when planning meals, but I am not afraid to offer them things they don't love. We don't force them to eat, but there isn't usually anything else offered as an alternative. It's amazing what a child might consider eating if that's all there is and they haven't been grazing on Goldfish crackers all afternoon.

We also eat together at the table, never in front of the TV. And sometimes I'll have DS1 'help' prepare the dinner, especially if it's something he doesn't love. This strategy is not advisable (for parental sanity) when they're really little, but I find it's helping as he gets older. As his rate of growth has slowed, he's a little pickier than he used to be.

This is what we had tonight:

Chicken sausage, peppers, onions, arugula and whole-wheat penne. They ate it. No fuss. I was actually a little surprised, because arugula isn't exactly a fan favorite, but I guess it was mixed in with enough other stuff so as to be sufficiently inoffensive.

So that's how things go around here. I do hope this doesn't come across as boastful, like we've cracked the code on getting kids to eat. Our kids just might be good eaters. But I do think our generation of parents has become enormously conflicted about telling kids, 'this is dinner.' If they really can't stomach it, they can have cereal. After a few nights of cheerios, they might be ready for a change.

Honestly, meals are not always stress-free in our house. There is entirely too much potty talk, talking with mouths full and DS2 seems to have a particular aversion to using cutlery.
We're a little savage, but we're working on it.

Monday, January 13, 2014

"Long, Lean Muscles of a Dancer:" Fact or Fiction?

"The Physique 57 workout, where arms, thighs, seat and abs get sculpted in the form of long, lean, gorgeous muscles."

"The Bar Method exercise targets the muscles that play the greatest role in body change, then keeps these muscles working intensely and safely long enough for them to change. It then intensely stretches each muscle worked to make it look & feel longer & more graceful."

"The Pure Barre technique is low-impact, protecting your joints by avoiding any bouncing or jumping. Each strength section of the workout is followed by a stretching section in order to create long, lean muscles without bulk." (In each case, emphasis mine.)

These are all quotes from various barre brands, all claiming their techniques will bring about "long, lean muscles." I've noticed a lot of people latch on to that phrase 'long, lean muscles.' Some people love it. It intrigues them and gets them in the door of a barre studio. Other people hate it and scoff at it as pure hype. Is it just a clever marketing ploy? Or do your muscles actually become 'longer?'

In The New Rules of Lifting for Women, author Lou Schuler rips into this one. His Rule #6 is 'No workout will make you taller.' He writes, "Workout advice for women is riddled with allusions to making muscles 'longer,'" which he decries as "nothing more than propaganda." Schuler goes on to explain that the shape of muscle is genetically predetermined and that muscles simply grow or shrink; you can't train them to be shaped in any particular way. He likens 'elongating muscle' claims to a workout promising to make you taller, since the length of muscle is constrained by the length of your limbs.

I see what Schuler is getting at. Obviously, doing regular barre workouts is not going to make my arms or legs longer. That falls firmly into the 'duh' category. But is that what barre people mean? And is that what most people are expecting?

If you were to cut my bicep out of my arm (please don't) and measure it, it will be the same actual length it has ever been since I grew to maturity in sixth grade. (Yes, I ate beans off all the boys' heads for many years hence.) But I've never read these claims that way. I never expected barre to make me actually longer. Does anyone? Really? So why do they say it at all?

What do you mean by 'length,' exactly?
I don't mean to be too Bill Clinton about this, but it makes a difference. Here's why: when I bend my arm, my biceps contract--which means they shorten. Muscles are made up of long, tubular fibers called sarcomeres. They pull together in a state of contraction, and when the same muscle is stretched, the sarcomeres pull apart to some degree--meaning they lengthen. The degree of togetherness your sarcomeres enjoy at rest can be altered by regular stretching, enabling you to be more flexible.

If you never stretch your hamstrings, for example, and you spend most of your day seated at a desk or behind the wheel of a car, your hamstrings will, in a sense, become shorter. This is a problem, because very tight hamstrings will result in postural imbalances and then all kinds of terrible things can happen. Ok, being a little dramatic, but why not have a stretch? It's good for you and it feels really nice.

The great thing about barre is the stretching is very much integrated throughout the workout--you first work the different muscle groups, making them nice and warm and increasing blood flow to the muscles--and making them shorter--then stretch, bringing length back to these same muscles. Stretching may not technically lengthen the muscle, but stretching will allow your muscles to achieve their optimal length. I'm just an amateur, but this is how I understand it works, and this is why you feel limber and lovely and lalalala after you finish a barre workout, and this is why barre is awesome.

Part of me wondered initially if this was just a semantics issue--the whole word 'length' tripping up the nay-sayers. Maybe there is some other word that would assuage the ire of people like Lou Schuler? So I discussed the issue at some length (whoops! there it is again!) with a physical therapist. Nope. Apparently they used the word 'length' in PT school. She suggested you could also say you're making the muscles 'looser,' but I can appreciate why the barre people don't want to use that word. Many of us exercise so we won't be so loose. What woman wants to be described as 'loose?' On any level? Umm, no. Not so much.

Anyway, stretching muscle right after working it is a great strategy. Studies conducted by Dr. Wayne Westcott, one of the big dogs in the exercise science world, found that exercisers who stretched the muscles they just worked experienced nearly 20% greater strength gains than those who did resistance training only. Stretching not only feels good, it aids in building muscle.

I don't want to put words in anyone's mouth, but this is why I figure the 'long muscles' claims are not bogus. The problem is when these assertions morph in someone's mind, making her think she's going to look like this after a handful of barre classes:
Umm, probably not. Dancers train for many years, often have very restrictive diets and most are genetically predisposed to look this way. From what I understand, the 'system' weeds out aspiring dancers who don't naturally have certain physical attributes. I've even heard of ballerinas wearing prosthetic arches in their toe shoes, simply because the dance master likes to see a certain type of arch in the foot.

The rest of us can experience greater strength and optimal muscle length from a steady diet of training and stretching. Barre isn't magic--it takes work, but the gains in strength and flexibility can yield big dividends both functionally and aesthetically.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

True Confessions

I love peanut butter. I think I've told you this before. Love, love, love it. I could eat peanut butter all day long, and sometimes... I do. I don't like natural peanut butter, though. By that I mean the kind you can grind yourself at Whole Paycheck. It's all a throwback to my childhood when my mother went on a health kick and banished Skippy from our house.

Happily, now Skippy makes 'natural' peanut butter. It's the same consistency as regular peanut butter, but without the partially hydrogenated oils, which will apparently cause us to sprout horns and a tail. Don't burst my bubble and tell me Skippy Natural is made from glow-in-the-dark peanuts harvested by exploited wood elves. I don't want to hear it.

Anyway, I love peanut butter so much, I've decided I need to banish it from my kitchen. Not that peanut butter is nutritionally bankrupt. I sincerely believe that it isn't. However, it is fairly calorically dense and I am not able to control myself around it. Peanut butter is a wanton vixen and I am it's slave. (I told you I could be dramatic.)

I cannot completely banish peanut butter from my home. There would be a mutiny. My spawn have inherited my love of peanut butter and consume it regularly. So, I'm simply sending peanut butter to my cold, dark basement. Where the chocolate chips live. Because I can't control myself with them, either.

There they are... Bonnie and Clyde on lockdown
I wish I were the sort of person who could consume chocolate and peanut butter in moderation, but I'm not. I've come to accept this. If something causes me to stumble, I'm going to cut it out. Better have to trudge up and down the frigid polar vortex stairs to retrieve the peanut butter for the small people than to inhale the whole jar in one sitting while watching reality TV. That's in the Bible. I'm sure of it... though I might have paraphrased a little.
I got the idea of keeping the chocolate chips and peanut butter in the basement (aka--'the second fridge') from this book:
Mindless Eating was published back in 2006, which means you can almost certainly find a copy of it at your local library. At least until another reader of A Mom Walks Into A Barre beats you to it. (Did you know there is now a hold on Sitting Kills, Moving Heals by Dr. Joan Vernikos in my local library system? The one I discussed in my last post? Yes, people. I'm influential. I feel like Oprah.)

Anyway, Mindless Eating was written by Brian Wansink, director at Cornell University's Food and Brand Lab. Dr. Wansink has made it his life's work to figure out why people eat what (and how much) they do, and he does it with a delightfully nerdy sense of humor. It's important to have a sense of humor if you live in Ithaca, NY. Talk about a polar vortex.

Dr. Wansink and his colleagues have conducted a number of experiments on unsuspecting diners. For example, they lured people in for a Superbowl party offering free chicken wings, then tested how many wings people ate under various conditions. FYI--don't gripe if a server doesn't clear your plate next time you're at happy hour. Turns out you'll eat way fewer wings if you can see the leftover bones than you would if your table were cleared regularly.

One of the chapters in the book is entitled the 'See-food Trap.' Wansink and his henchmen gave a group of office workers candy dishes stocked with Hershey Kisses. Half of the group were given clear dishes, while the other half's dishes were frosted glass. Each evening, Wansink's students counted the number of Kisses eaten (that would have been 'all of them' in my dish) and refilled the dish. They continued this for two weeks.

At the end, the workers with the clear dishes consumed a whopping 71% more candy than those who had been given opaque jars. That's a lot, people. Wansink and his students also rotated the location of the dishes--some were planted right beside the computer, some in the desk drawer, some on a cabinet a few feet away. In each case, the more convenient the dish, the more chocolate the worker ate.

In short, the more accessible food is, the more likely we are to eat it. If we have to expend a degree of effort, we're more likely to pass on it. And this is why peanut butter and chocolate chips now live in the basement. It's cold down there. When I'm feeling weak, I'm much less likely to descend the staircase into the frozen tundra that is my basement in January.
The book is replete with interesting stories of sabotage and deception (all in the name of science) and some pretty handy tips on how to trick yourself into eating more of the foods that are good for you and less of those that aren't.
It all kind of makes me want to get a job in Wansink's lab. But then I'd have to live in Ithaca. Mmmm... not convenient. I'll pass.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Sitting Kills!

I know! Shocking! High drama here at the barre, but it's true. Sitting kills, people. Sitting kills people. (This is one of those cases where the comma doesn't really have dire consequences. Unlike the classic, 'Let's eat, Grandma!' vs. 'Let's eat Grandma!' In which case, someone would also be killed. But I digress.)

Actually, it's not so much the act of sitting, but the staying there that's the problem. This is according to the research of Dr. Joan Vernikos, the former director of NASA's Life Sciences division. Her job was to assess the health of astronauts before, during and after space missions. Being an astronaut seems like a pretty cool job, no? Maybe, but as it turns out, it wreaks havoc with your body.
This is Dr. Vernikos. See? She's not sitting!

Dr. Vernikos and her colleagues found that astronauts manifested many disturbing symptoms after returning from jaunts in space, including reduced strength and stamina, back pain, disturbed balance, decreased cardiac output and kidney stones, just to name a few. In short, they experienced the same symptoms associated with aging. Yes, cool as it may be, spending time in space ages the human body--even a mission of just a few days had a profoundly negative impact.
This is her fascinating book.
The reason? Gravity. Or lack thereof. It turns out we really need gravity. Obviously, so long as we're living on earth, we're experiencing gravity, even when we're parked in the dreaded chair, but standing up, sitting down, squatting, pushing and pulling all require us to work against the force of gravity, and that is very beneficial. Our bodies were designed to interact with gravity, and when we're deprived of this opportunity, bad things happen. Long periods of uninterrupted sitting has been found to be an independent risk factor for premature death.

!!! I know. Refer to image above.

If premature death isn't enough of a motivator for you, here's another: movement stimulates the enzyme lipoprotein lipase, which attaches to your fat cells and transports them to your muscles to be used as fuel. (Of course, how the body uses fuel is more involved that that, but movement heads you in the right direction.) Pretty cool, huh? Almost as cool as being an astronaut.

As I mentioned earlier, it isn't actually the sitting that is the problem--it's prolonged sitting. As it turns out, prolonged standing isn't much better; the key is to alter your position frequently. We weren't meant to sit at a desk all day. We were designed to squat, kneel, bend, move.

Dr. Vernikos recommends standing up at least 35 times per day, but these standings-up must be spread out throughout the day. You can't just bob up and down 35 times in a row and call it good. It isn't. The whole point is making these sitting interruptions a part of your whole day.

I know, this is disquieting for many of you with desk jobs, but it turns out the solution isn't that difficult. Really, just stand up and sit back down again. Early and often. That's it! You don't have to do anything particularly heroic to avoid the problem.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • If you're the type who gets engrossed in computer work, set a timer to go off every 20 minutes to remind you to stand up. Seems silly, maybe, but timers are awesome. I love timers. I use them for all kinds of things. Eventually it will become a habit and you won't need the timer anymore.
  • If you use a laptop or iPad primarly, keep in on a higher surface, like a counter. I keep mine in my kitchen for this very reason. I found when I kept in at a desk or on the coffee table, I would plant my bum on a seat, never to rise again. While prolonged standing isn't really better for you than sitting, you're much more likely to move around from a standing position than you are from a comfy chair.
  • Speaking of chairs, Dr. Vernikos suggests using a straight-backed, hard chair without arm rests. Why? It's less comfortable, thus you're less likely to park in it for hours. Also, a straight-backed chair will encourage better posture.
  • If you are an office worker, try to rearrange your work station so everything is NOT within reach of your swivel chair. It will force you to get up and down, to reach and move, making these movements a natural part of your work day. (And while you're at it, ditch the swivel chair.)  
So those are the facts. Now it's time for my color commentary. (I know, it's your favorite part.)

An interesting thing has occurred since I started blogging about exercise. Numerous people from my real life have told me how they struggle with fitting exercise into their daily lives. Many people have great reasons for this, everything from crazy work schedules to new babies to injuries--some of them quite major and tragic. People lament their inability to 'exercise' and tell me how much they wish they could work up a good sweat.

And I feel their pain. Truly. You know how I feel about sweating. In a workout, anyway. Love it. And I'm quite good at it, as you may recall.

But sometimes life gets in the way, and this is why I love it when I come across research like this. Studies like the ones Dr. Vernikos has conducted show us that just doing a formal workout for 30-60 minutes a day does not give you a free pass to sit around for the rest of the day. Moving around is important. If your 'workout' leaves you so exhausted that you can't bring yourself to move around during the day, then you need to cut back on the workout.

You can do an awful lot for your physical health by just moving around during the day. If you just had a baby, you are exhausted and probably not exercising. But you are certainly still moving around, because babies keep you on your feet. You're moving, walking, bouncing, swaying, swinging, all to the soothe the blessed infant who won't--for the love of God and all that is holy--take a frickin' nap without movement. You're baby is probably most comfortable when you are uncomfortable, which stinks--but take heart! It's good for you!

Don't you feel better now? No? I don't blame you. I wouldn't either. But don't beat yourself up for not getting in a workout. You're moving, and it's good for you.

At the same time, I do think it's important to do challenging exercise, but if you're in a season of life in which that's really hard to do, don't lament. Just stand up. And sit back down again. Over and over, throughout the day.