One of my best friends walks 40 minutes to work and back home each day, even though she has plenty of other, faster transit options to take her to her downtown Toronto office. When I asked her why she chooses to walk, she said something that I will probably never forget: "I want to walk now while I can."
Why did the idea of walking seem so radical to me at the time? The fluid movement of putting one foot in front of the other is just so pedestrian that many of us take the ability for granted, going through life from one seat to another.
Sitting is the new smoking, or so I've heard more times than I can remember. Prolonged sitting has been linked to many health risks, including diabetes, heart disease and early death. But many of us can't help the inactivity of being desk-bound, especially if we work in an office environment.
I am in a place in my life where my choices will likely define the way I live the rest of my life.
Last year, during a busy period of work, I found myself unable to control my posture at my desk. I'd try to sit up straight with my feet firmly planted, shoulders back and tummy tucked, but my body wouldn't support me. I could feel myself falling forward, nearly keeling over my keyboard. The exhaustion of this effort made me crave more sedentary activities, anything that would allow my body to sink like a stone.
All this slouching, sinking and slothing around not only took a toll on my body, but my mind. I didn't feel like doing much of anything that didn't involve reading, watching or listening. When my husband, one of the most active people I know, would suggest something as harmless as an idle stroll, I'd grow agitated by the suggestion, "Like you want me to get up?"
As a healthy 28-year-old woman, I knew it wasn't OK to feel this way. I am in a place in my life where my choices will likely define the way I live the rest of my life. Making the choice to be active now will hopefully lead to greater mobility in old age. So last November, I decided enough was enough.
I've never been the sporty type, but I enjoy the challenge of group fitness activities. My ideal exercise regimen targets the muscle imbalance that makes it so difficult for me to sit: a weak core that collapses under the pressure of proper posture; tight hip flexors locked by inactivity; and weak and constrained glutes.
I bought a Groupon and enrolled in a studio that combines Pilates and yoga with ballet barre exercises to build strength and flexibility.
The first class was predictably brutal; I had no sense of rhythm, balance or coordination. The shock of movement spread pain over my muscles in places I never knew could be sore. Delayed onset muscle soreness, also known as muscle fever, is to be expected when your body is pushed beyond its comfort zone. No pain, no gain, as they say.
Yet after a couple of weeks, the pain dissolved into energy. I can feel the strength I'm building in my core and glutes give way to a natural grace and improved posture. I'm not only sitting better, I have a bounce in my step that has made me crave regular movement.
My fitness journey has only just begun, and while I don't walk to work like my friend, I've made little changes that will have a great significance for my future health: I've stopped sitting on public transit, and I make sure to get up from my desk every hour and stretch.
And I intend to keep moving, as much as I can for as long as my body will let me.
This post is part of an editorial series produced by The Huffington Post as part of our month-long "Work Well" initiative, which focuses on thriving in the workplace -- staying healthy and free of anxiety even in the midst of difficult work conditions. The goal of the series -- which will feature blogs, reported features, videos, and more -- is to present creative solutions you can use to take care of yourself as you take care of business. The effort is also part of The Huffington Post's "What's Working" solutions-oriented journalism initiative. To see all the content in the "Work Well" series, visit here.
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