Dr. Stefan Zavalin Transcript
Kevin: What are you doing right now? I mean, you’re obviously listening to this podcast, but research shows that most people listen to podcasts while they’re doing something else. Maybe you’re listening to this while you go for a walk or exercise, if so – bonus points for you! Maybe you’re listening to this in your car, or at hoe or in the office. But statistically speaking, chances are you’re listening this sitting down. That’s because the typical American sits for an average of 13 hours a day, and the typical American office worker sits for up to 15 hours daily. That’s a lot of sitting!
Sitting is actually a fairly new phenomenon – we’ve really only been sitting for about the last 200 years. Before that our natural resting position would have been a deep squat, a position that many of us over 50 find difficult to get into and out of, never mind resting for long periods of time in this position. Most of us have heard that too much sitting is bad for us. But just how much sitting is detrimental to our health? And how bad is it really?
Hello and welcome to the Over 50 Health & Wellness how. I’m you host Kevin English – I’m a certified personal trainer and nutrition coach and my mission is to help you get into the best shape of your life - no matter your age. We have a great show for you today – Dr. Stefan Zavalin is here to talk to us about the dangers of sitting and what to do about it. But before we get to that I want to let you know that today’s show is brought to you by the Silver Edge. The Silver Edge is my online personal training and nutrition coaching business where I help you get off the exercise and diet hamster wheel and start making permanent healthy lifestyle changes, so that you can enjoy the second half of your life with strength and confidence, and show up as the healthiest, strongest, most vital version of yourself no matter your age. If you’re interested in learning more, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll start a conversation. My promise to you is no hard sales pitch, no annoying incessant follow up emails, just an introductory conversation about your personal fitness goals. OK, enough of that, let’s get on with today’s show!
My guest today is Dr. Stefan Zavalin. Dr. Zavalin is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and work culture consultant working to ensure that people age well. He is the founder of the business Love to Move, where his mission is to change the culture of sitting in the workplace. In this episode, we’ll hear Dr. Zavalin’s personal story – spoiler alert, he went blind during his graduate studies – as well as the dangers of sitting. In this episode he lays out a timeline of the health dangers of sitting, starting with as little as 20 minutes of sitting. We then move on and talk about what we can specifically do to break this cycle – not just to move more, but to actually break the culture of sitting. This was a great episode, and really got me thinking about my own sitting habits.
I asked Dr. Zavalin what got him interested in physical therapy and eventually into the topic of sitting.
Stefan: I like to start this story back in fifth and sixth grade. Because it's really interesting how our life can sometimes go in these circles and come back to us. So I grew up as a very relatively fit child. I always loved to climb trees and my parents put me into swimming and I was always doing sports. But around fifth grade I was tired of going to gym. I thought gym was incredibly boring. Part of that was the actual instructor would just roll out a box of balls and go, do whatever you want with it. I don't care. And so I didn't like going to gym at school and I said, I want to go to orchestra because those who weren't orchestra did not have to go to gym.
And so I said, I'm going to play the violin, but that didn't pan out. I played the bass instead. But that was the trajectory so that I could get out of gym. And as that happened, I still played a little bit of soccer and things here and there. That started my downward spiral of not really doing anything active for the majority of high school as a result, because I just thought, well, I'm just going to be a musician.
Why do I care about doing anything active whatsoever? That in kind of made me be a little bit more overweight. And my parents started to notice, they started telling me things, shamed me into many things of saying, Hey, this is not good. And I thought, okay, fine. I need to do something. I didn't know what I was supposed to be doing.
And so I just said, well, you're supposed to eat less and move more. That's the general advice that we hear so much. And that culminated in me effectively eating a green apple and a cucumber for lunch while not having eaten breakfast and then running for an hour and doing exercises I thought were right, which was unsustainable.
So I would inevitably binge by dinnertime. And so I didn't see results and I was just struggling with it. My brother put me on to the gym and I thought, oh, well, this is interesting. I guess this is what I'm supposed to be doing. Once again, not knowing what in the world I was supposed to be doing. I worked out the entire body to complete fatigue and failure every single day, thinking this is it.
This is what people do. You don't eat anything at all, and you work your body into the ground and that's how you get stronger. Sure. I lost some weight inevitably with such a calorie deficit that was going to happen to some degree, but it was no way good or healthy, but this kind of started my idea of, okay, this is what sort of fitness is like, I guess I kind of understand this.
Nevertheless, I went to undergrad for music and I started that off and my parents said maybe something else, you know, we don't know if music is going to pay the bills. So I tried my hand at computer science. Loved it, but I knew it wasn't going to make me happy. And I was thinking, well, what is bringing me joy?
And I thought, you know, I really like going to the gym. And so as I was exploring more on bodybuilding.com and just looking online, it gave me more and more information. So I said, I'm going to switch to a kinesiology major, which is basically exercise science. And I was kind of working, working through that.
And one summer, I got introduced to CrossFit and I was really good at it. Maybe because I was able to put myself into that kind of dark place of just going, you just have to go all out and do it, which a lot of the CrossFit athletes, they talk about that sort of a place that you have to put yourself in some of those workouts.
But I really liked the idea of how much it involved, how fun it was that it wasn't just sitting and doing knee extensions to strengthen your quads. It was a whole body experience. And it was fun. It was the community aspect of it all as well. So I started my own CrossFit club at the university of Maryland, which for legal purposes was called the X fit club.
But that was me doing three or four workouts every single day that I would run through. And I would do the entirety of which thinking back to it now I'm going, what were you thinking?
But then I loved it. It was the best thing ever. On top of which I joined the gymnastics troupe which also exposed me to all of these ideas of how you can use body weight and everything. And it was around the end of junior year that my parents said, Hey, this is great. This is wonderful, but we think you should consider grad school.
And I said, I don't even know what people do with this. I'm getting this degree in kinesiology and what do I even do with it? So I started looking at what are the options and really the big two are occupational therapy and physical therapy. And said, okay. Let me check out this physical therapy thing.
I think I did one observation and I thought you get paid to do this? This is amazing. This is exactly what I want to do. This is so fun and absolutely wonderful. And so I went off to grad school thinking, this is it, this is what I absolutely want and I love. And so starting off kind of first semester, this is where the story takes an interesting downturn. I was in school. I was all bright eyed, bushy tailed, excited to learn all these wonderful things until inevitably I started getting pain and light sensitivity in my eye.
And I was going like, well, what's up with this? Maybe I got a little bit of a scratch or something like that. So as we always as we do, I kind of put it off for, for a week or two, but it was, it was just getting bad. So I went to the doctor and he said, ah, no problem. You got a bacterial infection. we'll take care of this.
Gave me some eye drops. Didn't work, went back. They said, sorry, misdiagnosed. It was actually a virus. Very common virus. It's okay, here you go. More drops. Didn't really work. Kind of continuing at this point, I'm going, Hey, this is hard for me to even sit in class. I can't look at a computer screen. It's too much for me to even be in grad school at this point.
And then like, okay, well maybe you have too much inflammation. So let's just up the steroids, so you'll be able to function. So dumped a bunch of steroid drops into the eye that reduces the inflammation. And at this point, what I should say is I have, since birth, one of my eyes doesn't work well, the optic nerve never developed, so it can't see properly.
Because I'm so very lucky this was happening to my good eye. So that's what was really impeding everything else where I was like, I can barely even really drive because the other eyes not functioning in that sense. So finally, everything seems to be going great because I'm dumping so many steroids in I'm thinking, okay, we're done.
I’m over this. It's fantastic. I'm home over Christmas break went to see a couple of doctors. They're like, yeah, it's just the virus. It's going to go away soon. No worries. You'll be okay. And then early January is when it comes back with a vengeance and the steroids do nothing and we're looking for any kind of options.
And finally my dad was able to find this eye Institute and go in there and they say, yes, this is actually a parasite that presents like a very common virus. And since they specialize, they see this all the time. And so that led to a whole thing of where they had to scrape my eye, which is some of the worst pain that you can imagine. It cascaded into several surgeries and all these other things of where you have to try to save as much of the eye as you can, and do all of these things for a part of it, the time I was able to have some of my vision and then try to get back into school and try to catch up and do all of these things.
And then inevitably I just completely went entirely blind to where I couldn't really do much. So I had to get a house where I could just walk to school. But long story short, I was able to actually finish PT school, even though I had to take a year off for all of that eye stuff. And then I thought, all right, I'm going to get into a clinic and work.
And so our final rotation - my family's in Nashville, Tennessee - there was a rotation in Nashville, Tennessee. And so I started working for this company called Results. Which I still say, I would recommend for my mom and dad to go there. So anybody should go there.
The reason I say that is because they're a step above of using evidence-based things and using hands-on things. Cause a lot of times we think physical therapy exercise it's more than just exercise. They do a lot of continuing education.
So I learned more and more and more, but inevitably I found that people were coming in, they would say, ah, my neck hurts and would go, okay, well, let me work on that. Let's see. All right. What's your posture like? Oh, let's talk about your setup at home. You have two monitors and you're primarily turned on looking to the left 70% of the time.
All right. I can kind of tell you where the problem is. Sure. I can give you these exercises. But I don't know how much that's going to change unless you change the desk setup. Okay, great. They did the exercises, they felt better. Something like a year later they would come back and I'd go, whoa, what happened?
They're like, oh, it's the same thing. And I'm like, well, do you do the exercises? They're like, no. What happens when you do them? It feels better. Why don't you do the exercises? What do you want me to do? This kept on happening where people would come back with the same, I wouldn't even call them injuries, but impairments at this point or chronic injuries, you could say, and I realize that it's almost pointless for me to repeatedly be fixing this because the problem is going to keep happening. I'm just fixing the symptoms. I'm not really fixing the problem.
We talk about this a lot in physical therapy overall, is that when people come in and they have pain, you might have, for example, a pain in the bottom of your foot, it could be radiating from your back. It doesn't mean that the problems in your foot and fixing your foot, isn't going to fix the pain. So the pain is just a symptom, but similarly here I wasn't fixing the problem of how their desk was set up, how their entire workstation was set up. I was telling them, hey, you might consider this, but I was just fixing their little bits and pieces of the problem.
And so through a lot of different, interesting circumstances, I happened to get COVID this past Christmas and there were a lot of interesting symptoms. As we all know, people have very different symptoms as a result. It was difficult for me to move and I had some chest pain and heart pain. So I had to take an extra month off. And over that time it was thinking about this whole thing of where I'm like, well, you know, I really want to start something else to where I'm intervening a little bit more.
And I know that we have plenty of people that do ergonomics, but ergonomics just isn't enough. Ergonomics is great. It sets you up into this neutral posture, but we're meant to move. And the majority of people aren't moving. And so by the end of that extra month off, I said, guys, I think I'm done. So I left the clinic and I started up my own business, which is where I thought, okay, I'm going to not only try to intervene for the ergonomics and the environment in which we work, but also the culture that supports it at work. And so that that's really what fueled all of that passion all the way through.
Kevin: Wow. That's quite a story! So it sounds like you've had the whole rollercoaster of journey there in terms of your personal story, you started out as an active kid. Just kind of got a distaste for that. It sounds like went into orchestra and found yourself getting maybe a little chubby and then getting some feedback where, hey, maybe you need to move more.
And I think a lot of us can relate to that, especially later in life, a lot of us tend to go to that cardio and calorie restriction and A, it's not sustainable, and B, it's not usually not very fun. And C, it's not very effective frankly. So you moved to a gym environment you find your way around there.
You find CrossFit and fall in love with the intensity and the community of CrossFit. Certainly there’s a subset of us that certainly have been there and can appreciate that. And then into school, you've got this crazy story of, not really realizing, or did you realize as a child, that one of your eyes was not working, or was that just your baseline and that's kind your normal?
Stefan: That's a baseline of normal actually, as a kid they eye patched me and they tried to retrain it, but it doesn't matter. The nerve is half dead, so we wouldn't have retrained it.
Kevin: Gotcha. So that brings you up to present day and you are working in this physical therapy environment, and I'm hearing this from other physical therapists, right? These leading edge physical therapists and they’re frustrated with - there is a certain subset of physical therapy that is doing allopathic care and they're treating that pain. They're treating that symptom. Sure. I show up and I've got some back pain or I have shoulder pain, whatever that is, a good physical therapist can ease that pain. But really, if you're not addressing the root cause then we're just putting band-aids on wounds here.
So in your case, we're going to talk a lot about posture, specifically sitting and sedentary lifestyle and let's dig into that a little bit. I read on your website that the average American office worker sits for in astounding amount of time. let's talk about the problem a little bit. Can you describe what the problem is with the common workplace office environment looks like?
Stefan: In general the office environment and everything we have set up is for sitting. So if you think about how an office is set up it's so that you have access. You're on a rolly chair. So you can come here, come over there to different parts so that you remain sitting and don't have to get up quite as much.
When you go to meetings and board rooms, you're sitting down in the chairs. And so there's even break rooms, chairs, chairs, chairs. We are consistently set up for where we sit all the time. And I understand it's comfortable to sit. There is always this argument of where if I stood all day, that would be uncomfortable.
Sure. That's fine. But then, we don't really promote the person that stands out or the person that goes for a run in the middle of the workday during their lunch or anything like that. They're the odd ball. They're the one that's strange. Why are you doing that? So not only is there the environment, there's also this cultural setup of, okay, that's strange. We have that even in the language that we use. Whenever somebody comes in, we say grab a seat. You know, hey, everybody sit down and we'll get started. It's the language there of saying let's sit down. That's the only way that we can actually work is if we sit down and get to it and you know, don't just stand around, actually get to work.
So it's very much just infused into the whole aspect of what we do at work. And there are a lot of different studies as far as the averages. Lately it's been up to 15 hours. That was pre COVID times where there was definitely some commute time that was in the middle, who knows how that's affected things.
We don't know if some people will, maybe now we're getting up a little bit more, cause they're at home and they feel that it's easy for them when they're working remotely. Maybe they're sitting even more because now they don't have to walk to their car park and walk any further. So, it's definitely this consistency of sitting.
And the biggest problem is that we're not breaking it up. Some people might say, well, I exercise, you know, I did my hour and that's not really the problem. The problem is that you sat for that prolonged period.
Kevin: Yeah, so a lot of us are sitting for a prolonged period of time. Myself included. And those of us that are in the healthy fitness lifestyle, I think you described that where there could be people that go say 3, 5, 6, 7 days a week for their run to the gym, whatever their physical activity is, for 45 minutes an hour, whatever that looks like, but then sit for the remainder of the day. Let's talk about some of the problems or the dangers of prolonged sitting. What does that do to our bodies? Why is that bad?
Stefan: Sure. And I'm gonna try to give it more of a stat line all the way out from minutes to hours and what that ends up doing. This is to say that we need to understand how frequently we need to break this up. Not necessarily to scare people into standing 24 7, because that's incredibly unsustainable. But so even sitting for 20 minutes, there was a study that came out that says that basically the gene expression goes to the point of saying, we need to break down muscles.
So you're already giving the body the stimulus of, hey, we don't need as much muscle if we're sitting for 20 minutes. So usually right off the bat and we'll rehash this again, I say try to get up 20 minutes is the most ideal, but let's keep going. At about 30 minutes you're starting to decrease the amount of blood flow that's going to the brain.
So if your argument is, well, I need to sit down and focus. No, there's a counter-argument that maybe getting up at the 30 minute mark is where you need to go a little bit at that. We know that rounded posture that we talk about a lot of people get that with their phones or anything like that, that reduces air flow immediately pretty much as you get into it and the longer and longer you sit, obviously that's going to have more and more of an impact of how much oxygen is getting to the brain and everything like that. Now, if we get into the longer times the hours, so sitting for six hours or more increases depression and anxiety. Sitting for eight hours or more doubles, cardiovascular disease risk.
And then this is the big one that really hits hard - sitting for 11 or more hours increases risk of premature death by 40%. In that specific study was 60% for women. The sample size was a little bit smaller, but it was still hundreds of thousands.
But the scary part is not the 40% or the 60%. The problem that we need to focus on is that they balanced it for exercise and the risk was not reduced for individuals that performed moderate or high intensity exercise. So we must understand that it's not about going out and exercising more. It is truly about sitting less.
And there's a whole sort of mindset shift that I work on as part of the culture is that it's very easy. We have a culture of more and more and more. You need to be more productive. You need to do more at the gym. You need to be more of whatever at home. And I'm saying, I think the mind shift needs to switch to, let's try to sit less.
Does that mean you're standing up and using a standing desk? Sure, but can we shift of what we're thinking about? So we're not burning out. Cause especially after the pandemic burnout rates are really getting higher and higher. Especially office workers.
Kevin: Yeah, so that thanks for sharing that. That's pretty alarming. The 20 minutes, you're already starting to see some detriments. And 30 minutes, we're starting to decrease, I think you said some blood flow to the brain and that rounded posture that many of us are in when we're sitting.
And certainly when we're on electronic devices, that’s bad for air flow. I'm sure it's not great for the skeletal system and the muscles as well. I know the posterior chain muscles may be lengthening while other muscles are tightening. And there's just all these bad things that are happen when we're sitting. And in preparing for this interview I thought to myself, well, how much do I sit? I'm a pretty active guy. I'm standing up now. The audience can't see me, but I'm standing up. Cause I do have a convertible desk and I switched back and forth. But if I'm honest, I spend a shocking amount of my time sitting, even as somebody who's in this health and wellness space.
And so just bringing awareness to this is tremendously helpful. Now, before we go on and talk a little bit about what we can do about this, I want to talk to you about the history of sitting because I think that, and you already alluded to this in the culture piece, we're just used to sitting and I hadn't thought about that, but hey, quit standing around, come in and take a seat, sit down. We do have a culture that embraces sitting specifically on chairs, but that's a fairly recent thing in human evolutionary development. Can we talk a little bit about the history of sitting in chars?
Stefan: Sure. And if anybody wants a little bit of another take on this, you had the episode with Steve Mansfield, who talked about the fact that technology's evolving faster than we have. And there's a great talk on that as well. So as far as historygoes, I've looked into the history of the chair itself, just out of pure curiosity, and we've had the chair around for a long time.
I can't disagree with that. I think it was some Greeks used to have some of the chairs. But here's the catch. Chairs were used primarily for royalty for a very, very long time. And as much as we may consider ourselves royalty maybe that's not necessarily the best part for us. Also, those chairs were not necessarily very comfortable.
A lot of times they were just kind of stone or wood. Cushions came in much later to where it was very comfortable to sit for a long period of time. In general, also people had to do a lot more work, so sitting just wasn't you had to work the field, or even if you have to do hunting and gathering, if we're going that far back, you didn't have time to sit around.
And squatting was also a lot more of a restful position than sitting itself necessarily would be, which is far more engaging for the muscles. I imagine if somebody had to hold a squat for 10 minutes, that would be a full exercise for the day for some people than a restful position.
Certain factory workers were able to stand, some would then be able to then sit if possible. We start to have cars - less with horse and buggy because this still a little bit more engaging - but as you get more cars and more sitting while traveling. You're having more and more sitting, not just while you work, not just at home, but now, even in the, in between, because a lot of people for awhile there streets were made for pedestrians and for bicycles.
And then eventually when cars became popular, sidewalks became for pedestrians and streets became for the actual cars. And so we've kind of made it further and further that we're just going to be sitting, sitting, sitting for all of these. And so instead of trying to find ways to adapt the various jobs and their tasks for standing.
We just said, well, let's adapt it for sitting. It's easier. We can do more. And especially now with the computers and everything else that we can digitally do everything. Everything is done sitting and so people are just going to be sitting down because that's far more comfortable. So I would say probably phones and computers have been one of the biggest as far as work to let us sit and not have to get up and move quite as much. Even though cell phones allowed people to walk around and do all that. A lot of times, I just see people sitting and talking on their phone, even though they could stand up and, and walk.
Kevin: Yeah, that's fascinating. Thanks for sharing that. And there's a lot in there that I really hadn't considered. I mean, you think about chairs being originally for royalty, and of course we would have moved a lot more. You mentioned the squat position and I certainly would challenge listeners to get into a deep squat and hold it even for a minute. A lot of us no longer have that mobility - those of us over 50 - to get into that deep squat comfortably with that full range of motion, let alone stay there. And you had mentioned for 10 minutes, I would guess that's going to be outside of most people's capability at this point, which is kind of funny.
And there are still cultures where you see that's the prevalent way of resting, right? Is in that very, very deep squat. But we've developed these chairs and to your point as we started to move to vehicles for our transportation, we're sitting there now. We're in this technology age, and most workers are office workers and we're sitting, okay. So, we defined the problem. What can we do about it? What do we do to get around this?
Stefan: The easy answer that everybody goes for is move more, sit less. But move more, we talked about this idea of people having the mindset of do more, do more, do more, do more, and it’s not going to be helpful. That's what everybody's constantly told.
Everybody knows that they need to move more. Everybody has that feeling and that idea, and yet 80% are not meeting the physical activity minimum which is a 150 minutes per week. So that's it. It's relatively accessible for us. So I think it's going to be more about that, that sitting less mindset.
Now, this is where that 20 minute part comes in, of taking breaks every 20 minutes. But I get on a little bit of a soap box here, there's a difference between movement and exercise. And people tend to think, whenever I say take a movement break, they think I mean go exercise. Your body doesn't know the difference between a squat and you picking something up off the ground.
You're doing the same movement. So if you're going to go do a chore, if you're going to go to the printer, if you're going to go, just, you know, go outside to the car to grab something, these are all movements and they count. It doesn't have to be exercise. And I actually urge it to not be exercise because then you don't have to be thinking about it quite so much.
And I think that exercise a lot of times is very limiting. Which is what we're going to get to here in a little bit about how do you, what's the best way to also break that. But even in regards to your posture, most people ask what's good and bad posture, and there’s no such thing. Technically it's good to be in a posture for a long time, or it's bad to be in a specific posture for a long time.
So being hunched over for15 hours, that's bad, but it's not bad because we're hunched over. It's bad because we're in there for 15 hours. If we were leaned all the way back and compressing all of our lumbar vertebra for 15 hours, that would also be bad because we'd be there for way too long.
So we really need that movement. And so about every 20 minutes, if you can get up and move, if you normally sit for an hour and don't get up, start with an hour, start with an alarm every hour, start with 45 minutes, 50 minutes and don't shoot for 20 right away. But that would be the first thing is just get up and move.
It can be absolutely whatever - and chores are my favorite, especially if I'm at home because I get a chore done. And I get some movement in. But this idea of us having to actually physically get up and move brings in what I want to talk about in terms of exercise. We now talk so much about functional training and all of these things and not to do things in isolation. Great. You just posted an article in May about the seven patterns of movement also. Wonderful, great.
I take it down even simpler, and I say there's really three kinds of planes that we're going to be moving in and you can move any joint, technically in these three planes or a combination of them. To make it simple, that's forward and backwards, side to side, and twisting. Most of what we do is forward backwards. When we're walking, when we're picking things up. When we're looking at the computer, we're mostly doing everything forwards and backwards. Sometimes we do some side to side. If you run into somebody in the street, they go to the left to go to the left, back and forth. You get a little side to side.
Twisting we do very little of. It's even interesting if you think about it, the word twisting is something we sometimes associate with injury. I twisted my ankle. I hear a lot, especially after spring cleaning, is when people would come into the clinic and say, I've bent forward. I twisted to pull something. And there, out went my back. We don't expose ourselves to twisting.
And so, especially when we expose ourselves to that motion under load, it it's very detrimental to us and a lot of people get injured that way. So the reason I bring all this up is if you're deciding to do exercises or any kind of movements as your movement break, try to include side to side and twisting in it as well.
So that you're continuously exposing yourself to this. A lot of times when people get up, they're like, oh, I'm going to stretch. and then, so they bend forward, touch their toes. They come up, they bend backwards and they go, that's it, that's enough. That's the only way you're going to function. You're just going to be like a hinge forwards and backwards.
We have so many wonderful complexities of joints and movements that our bodies can do. We really need to access all of them. So just remember that every 20 minutes, try to get inside the side and twisting as much as you can into all of that.
Kevin: And then sorry to interrupt, but before we move on from that, so if I'm going to do a 20 minute break and I'm going to incorporate some of the side to side and twisting movements, How long should that be? Is that 30 seconds of movement? Is that five minutes of movement? What's an appropriate amount of time to spend after I've just sat for 20 or 30 minutes?
Stefan: Great question. So the research shows that it's about two minutes. Two minutes was the ideal in that research. They were specifically walking on a treadmill. So there might be an argument to be made if you went a little bit of a higher intensity and got your heart rate up a little bit more and did something a little bit more dynamic than just walking, maybe you could do a little bit less. I usually say if you're not used to it start with 30 seconds. Because when you're not used to it two minutes, it feels like eternity. And so start with 30 seconds. Or even if you don't want to count it, start with reps, just go, I'm going to squat 10 times, or I'm just going to walk down the hallway or upstairs or somewhere and come back.
Great. It's it's about building that habit a little bit as opposed to being absolutely perfect. But two minutes in the ideal.
Kevin: Two minutes. Okay, great. Thank you. And then you had mentioned, ideally, we're going to do some side to side and some twisting motions. Can you give an example of a couple of a side to side and the twist movement that would be appropriate for somebody who's primarily sedentary and wants to incorporate this?
Stefan: Sure. So what usually ends up happening for us when we're sitting? This is a great time to bring in the pelvic quadrant. And I don't know how much you've gotten into all of this, but a lot of times with sitting hip flexor tightness can be an issue because our knees are all the way 90 degrees, which means our hips are pretty flexed.
So the, the pelvic quadrant idea basically is that you have these four muscle groups and how they're interacting. You've got your hip flexors. That are in the front. They bring your knee up to your chest. They tend to be tight. And then you have your erector spinae, which are your low back little muscles on the very low of your back.
They tend to also be tight. Whenever we go, I got a little bit of an ache, that's probably your erector spinae. Now your abdominals, because of the way everything has shifted, tend to be elongated and loose. And usually weak. As well as your glutes because we're sitting on them. And there's a very interesting study for overweight individuals showing that they have an increased deterioration in glutes with sitting because of increased weight with the bones is pressing on the muscle. Just a fun fact for everyone. But this creates this tilt of the pelvis forward, which a lot of times impacts people in squatting and a lot of low back pain, because you might get a little bit of pinching and things like that. The reason I'm bring it up is probably one of the best things that you can do is make sure that you are moving your low back.
Yes, majority of the low back and the lumbar vertebra are used for stability. They're big bones. They are used for stability, but we still need to move them. Because if you really don't introduce a lot to them, you’re only going to keep on stiffing up more and more. And with age, we have something called stenosis, which is basically narrowing of that channel, which just means that we're bending a little more forward and a little more forward.
You were talking about the posterior chain, meaning that people need to train all the muscles on the back side of the body. So having said that, sure. You can bend down, touch your toes, bent back. Like we said, make sure that you bend to the side, bend to the other side, kind of like those wonderful Jazzercise videos.
You can reach an arm overhead, get a lat stretch in there as well, because we spend most of the time with our arms down. So lats are going to be tight. So then you can bend to the side, bend to the side that way, and similarly twisting and twisting. Now there's a catch with twisting and twisting. When you twist, make sure that your hips are pointing straight forward.
A lot of times people will twist and their knees will move. And really all you're doing is you're moving your knees back and forth, and maybe your shoulders are turning a little bit, but your actual spine isn't moving. And so make sure that you either do that or just go as far as you can gently, that's going to be the other part.
If you haven't been doing these kinds of twists for awhile, the last thing you want to do is just snap into it. And then send me an email yelling at me that something's happened to your back or even worse than an email to Kevin and yell at him on my behalf. So that's going to be the best for your spine. A lot of great little yoga twists like where you take one leg over and turn and twist all the way to the side or even pigeon pose where that's going to be twisting of the hip, because we're going to be sitting on it for such a long period of time. People tend to keep their knees usually in. And so they're going to have a hard time pushing their knees out that external rotation for squatting.
Like we talked about a lot of people's knees fall in a very common due to the weakness of the glutes. So pigeon pose, try to bend side over to the side, reach your arm overhead. And twist your whole body side to side, making sure that your hips aren't moving too much in that twist.
So realistically, those are all wonderful things and that's building habits for the bigger picture of it all, is that we need to alter that environment and that culture that we talked about in the beginning. Tthis is really where a lot more of the play comes into what is your work team like? What is your home life like? Absolutely you can do this at home, but we'll take it more into that kind of office. Now, realistically, if your office does not support it, if being the one that takes a walk at lunch is you being the odd ball that tells you there's something there that needs to change as far as the culture and the environment, which is only gonna support your habits, it's gonna make all of that be so much easier.
So implementing things like, hey, can we stand up for five minutes at the beginning of our meeting? How do people feel about that? Do people want to sign up for a 5k walk or anything like that? Bringing that up. Now, the issue here is that most of us are employees and we try to bring that up and the employers go well, okay. So it's, it's going to be important to get them on board as well, because they're going to influence the culture a lot more. And if they're the ones driving the change. Other people are going to be more likely to take it up and say, Okay, wonderful. What I like to use there is a lot of people will say, a lot of employers will say we encourage movement.
Encouraging movement is kind of like saying movement is good for you and we encourage you to take frequent breaks. Great. But you also tell me that I need to have high productivity. Facilitating movement would be saying, we know movement is good for you, so we have put three, five minute breaks in your morning schedule. Make sure that you take them for movement. That is more facilitating.
Now I'm using just an example of, of the three and the five minutes. It's not that precise, but helping the leaders make sure that the changes are there and bringing that up as a discussion is very helpful. Now, the question always is, well, of course, but what does that do to the bottom line? They really only ever care about money. It actually improves. Standing for an hour versus sitting for an hour, improves your productivity 46%, which is huge.
Kevin: Yeah, that is huge.
Stefan: Yeah treadmill desks, not as much because they have a bit of a learning curve, so don't get too carried away and get everybody in the office, a treadmill desk. My favorite quote, usually that I like to say with them is a treadmill desk only works if you use it. Start with the standing desk. It's a lot easier to just transition with that. And then see what you can do culturally with, hey, I know we have a one-on-one meeting, do you mind if we, you know, go for a walk while we do this one-on-one meeting? You'll actually find that those are a lot more engaging and a lot more fun than just sitting.
Of course, if it's an incredibly private meeting and you have to have it indoors understandable, but most of the time you could do it walking. And so it's bringing this awareness to let's still do the exact same things we've been doing at work. But do them in a standing, a walking or a moving manner so that we're not sitting quite as much.
So this is not saying that all right, every hour an alarm goes off and everybody in the office does jumping jacks. That's going to be tiresome and it's not going to be sustainable for most people. The problem of most of the culture and environment being sedentary is still gonna be there. So some of the other things that people like that won't come to mind immediately is changing all the front parking to handicap parking so that everybody's forced to park a little bit further away, and there's actually more accessible parking for those that really need it. And then use a bathroom on a different floor, that was always a fun one because you get to interact and meet with different people. That one can be hit or miss, depending on how big your company is how scared you are of the current variants of the virus.
Please use common sense and caution with all of that as well. But it's going to be altering some of those things. Now it can be sometimes hard to alter cubicles. So if you have a big, like a call center layout, and there are a lot of cubicles and you don't have a lot of space to move, I understand that that might be a little bit harder, but that's also where you try to get the leadership involved.
And as they see this progression of, hey, productivity is improving, the health is improving. Sick absences are decreasing. It's going to follow it because the money really follows along with that. But that's exactly what I do as far as the consulting side of figuring out how can we improve the culture and the environment. Because exercises, I can give you exercises, but like we talked about at the beginning and now you'll do them for a couple of weeks, maybe a month, and then throw them to the wayside once you feel better.
Kevin: Yeah, that I think that's very, very interesting because I think a lot of companies are onto this a little bit. I've seen this personally, where HR will hire somebody, a wellness director who comes in and they shoot out all these rah-rah emails and it does. It encourages, hey, you should walk every day.
We'll give you a discount on a gym, or maybe we're going to open up a gym here, and a lot of workplace cultures, they kind of get this, but they're not addressing the actual culture of how we work. And to your point, if we encourage this culture of integrated movement throughout the workday, these companies are going to have increased productivity.
There's a bottom line benefit to implementing that. Now, if I'm not mistaken, that's what you do now. Right? You have a company called, is it move to live?
Stefan: Love to Move.
Kevin: Love to Move. Sorry.
Stefan: Yeah. Well, so there, the reason you said that is because the website is LTMMTL. Which is love to move, move to love. And that second part is more of just this idea of, I generally do believe that we need to try to be more compassionate but the main company names is Love to Move.
Kevin: So, yeah. Love to Move and talk a little bit about that business. I take it you work with companies and not necessarily individuals.
Stefan: Yes and no. The ideal is companies because I can touch only so many individuals one by one, but if I'm able to really work with a company, I can influence a lot more people in that sense of getting them healthier and getting them moving. Right. That's the final goal for me in general, but what that can often look like is this is all done remotely.
That it's mostly done through presentations and then people that need the help of, I had one gentleman who has six monitors. Now I can give you a general presentation for somebody that has one, right? But six monitors. That's going to be a little bit more specialized. So for those kinds of interactions, then we have a one-on-one meeting where I actually discuss it with him about, okay, this is how we might need to change this, but changing culture.
We want everybody on the same page. So it's more of this, hey, what do you guys do? How can we actually change that? Because certain things aren't going to be helpful for certain companies. I spoke to one gentleman who said, you know, I worked at a company that gave us free gym memberships and this one doesn't really do that.
But this one doesn't really do any of that. And I said, okay, that's great. But how many people do you think would actually go if it was free? And he was like, yeah I don't think anybody here would probably go. Or those that would already pay for the gym and they already go, it wouldn't necessarily increase.
So I'm like, well then, it doesn't benefit you to have a free gym membership. How can you change this awareness of what you need to be doing with it? And so it's finding those ways to implement it. Same thing of, we talked about the treadmill desks. You can buy all this fancy equipment and fancy desks for people.
And a lot of people will say, yeah, yeah. My company got me a standing desk and I go, do you use it? And they're like, no, I tried it for a little bit. Nah, I don't like it. So it only goes so far.
Kevin: Yeah. And I think that a lot of us, with COVID are now working from home. You had mentioned, if you're in one of those cubicle type, like a call center type thing, and a lot of those folks are still working from home and frankly, some of those folks may stay there.
A lot of these call centers are reconsidering how they do business because the traditional thinking was well I'll never have the same productivity if I don't have my folks all here. It turns out maybe that wasn't necessarily true. But I think about myself working from home, I do have two monitors and I really didn't think about it.
I stare at one primarily, so I'm probably just tiny bit turned if I'm not squared up. Or as I turned in into the second one, I'm kind of rotating. I have these very repeated, often times static postures, which aren't great. And just having that awareness of that and introducing that culture into my work environment, into my home environment.
I think there's an opportunity there for a lot of our listeners that are working from home. And as we're hopefully rolling into the end of this COVID and companies are either calling their employees back or saying, hey, you know what? This has worked out pretty good for you. I know a lot of employers are giving their employees that option of home or work. Some are calling them back, but as we kind of think of these things, we can work to be that culture change. Right? I think to your point, it's almost like the doctor telling you, you should eat less and exercise more, but that's very unspecific.
And so for a physical therapist, come on, say, hey, you should move more. Well, yeah, I probably should, but we've gotten some really good actionable advice here. Now, if people are interested in this and they want to work with you or that maybe they want to point their employers to you or they are employers themselves. What's the best way for them to get in touch with you?
Stefan: Go onto the website www.ltmmtl.com. Or you can find me on LinkedIn as well, just Stefan Zavalin. Now, if you were more of the employee that kind of wants to go, I like this stuff, I don't know if I necessarily need to work with you, but I would love all the lovely encouragement and reminders about that.
I post a lot of stuff on Instagram about this and just to help people get on board. That one is underscore love to move underscore. And now they're going to Reels, so I post some fun parodies and comedies there. So I try to keep it light because I understand that it's not a topic that people absolutely love. And if I just stand on camera and repeatedly say go move more and exercise.
Kevin: Yeah. Okay, great. And folks, I'll drop all of that into the show notes for this episode. You can find that there. So Dr. Zavalin, what is next for you? What's on the horizon?
Stefan: So much, which is lovely. I'm currently working on a book that is tentatively called Sit Less. Which hopefully will be done in time for my Ted talk, which I will be giving in December on the topic of changing our work culture and how much we need to be moving.
That will be in Vancouver. So I'm really hoping for that border to be nice and an open by that time. But it looks like it will be.
Kevin: Great. So we'll certainly keep an eye out for the book. We'll absolutely be looking forward to a Ted talk in December and Dr. Zavalin, I just want to thank you so much for coming on the show today. Sharing your personal story with us, as well as all this great information, because this is something that I'm going to go out on a limb and say, it affects the majority of the folks listening to this podcast today.
And if it doesn't affect them directly, because they're somebody that works in a movement-based occupation, it certainly affects their loved ones. So, thanks for bringing awareness to this and thanks again for coming on the show.
Stefan: Thank you very much.
Kevin: OK folks, that’s our show for this week, I hope you enjoyed today’s conversation as much as I did. Hopefully this conversation has you thinking about your own sitting habits, and you got some ideas for incorporating more movement and less sitting – whether at home or in the office. All the links to the resources we discussed in this episode and more can be found at www.silveredgefitness.com/episode73. And you can continue the conversation over there as well, I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments on today’s show. As we wrap up our time together today, you can show your support for this show by giving this podcast a five star review on whatever platform you listen to podcasts on, and be sure to subscribe and follow so you don’t miss any future episodes. I really appreciate you spending your time with me today, and until next time, stay strong.