Category Archives: Science

An Academic Paradox

Post: around 500+ words, estimated reading time: 2-3 min.
Ebook: Around 5.600 words, estimated reading time: 28-30 min.

Most academic careers are devoid of physical labor, and yet academics often suffer from serious conditions usually associated with it.

Chronic neck, shoulders, and lower back pain are common early in academic careers and fused or herniated spinal disks and sciatica are not uncommon later. The cause of this apparent paradox is however not hard to find: most of an academic career is spent sitting.

Lund University takes action

Last September (2017) the Department of Philosophy of the University of Lund hired us to help address the consequences of sitting.

On the practical side, we recommended implementing ‘movement breaks’ based on Pavel Tsatsouline’s Grease the Groove protocol (already discussed in this post). The movements were selected among those recommended by Dr. Stuart McGill, namely loaded carries with kettlebells, to be adapted to the relative levels of participant.

Before we started, the general opinion in the faculty was that health concerns could be fully addressed by a combination of ergonomy, massage therapy, and physical exercise. Our proposal was therefore unlikely to be accepted right away and it soon appeared that we should first explain why bringing kettlebells to the workplace was a good idea and why what we proposed was different from traditional exercise routines.

Why bringing kettlebells to the workplace?

Ergonomy, massage therapy, and physical exercise cannot alone counteract the consequences of sitting and sedentary behavior. Ergonomy lowers the impact of sitting but does not nullify it, while massage therapy only addresses symptoms. And there is mounting evidence that sedentary behavior can negate the benefit of regular exercise.

The potential consequences of this realization are such that the World Health Organization has recently altered its policy and adopted a two-pronged approach (promoting physical activity and preventing sedentary behavior) after years of focusing exclusively on recommending exercise.

The longer answer lies in human evolution and the biomechanics and neurology of sitting. We evolved to stand and walk but this evolution also made us prone to develop adaptations to sitting. These adaptations are pathological: they create dysfunctions in our daily life.

Given how often we sit, these adaptations can only be counteracted by performing frequent movements that restore normal function, hence the idea of ‘movement breaks’. And we adapt faster to movements when we must overcome resistance to perform them, hence the recommendation of using kettlebells that take little room in an office space.

A longer answer

We presented the scientific basis and the practical details of our approach to the department’s staff during a half-day information seminar. Thanks to the quality of the attendance, the discussion was exceptional and covered more ground than we had initially expected. In order not to let the information be lost, we prepared an ebook for the perusal of the participants to the program.

Dr. Tomas Persson, Head of the Department of Philosophy, kindly let us share this ebook with a wider public. The structure and content of the ebook follow the structure and content of the seminar (minus some demonstrations of movements and exercises). As a tribute to this generous gesture, we release it under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License and with a title suggested by Dr. Tomas Persson himself.

 

Is Back Pain Killing Us?

Around 1.600 words, estimated reading time: 7-8 min.

The question might seem overdramatic.

And yet, it is raised by an academic paper published earlier this year in the very serious European Journal of Pain (vol. 21, issue 5) titled “Is This Back Pain Killing Me?”

A preview of the paper is accessible online and the University of Sidney website has a short discussion by one of the lead researchers and senior author, Associate Professor of physiotherapy Paulo Feirrera.

The research points at a disturbing connection between back pain and mortality, summed up as followed by Prof. Ferreira:

Our study found that compared to those without spinal pain (back and neck), a person with spinal pain has a 13 percent higher chance of dying every year. This is a significant finding as many people think that back pain is not life-threatening.

Continue reading Is Back Pain Killing Us?

A Story We Almost Missed

Around 600 words, estimated reading time: 3-4 min.

Coverstory (1)Last June, Men’s Health published a short article titled “I Planked One Minute Every Hour at Work for Two Weeks”.

We missed this story when it was published. And since Men’s Health is not our idea of a reliable source of health & fitness information, it would have flown indefinitely under our radar without a special mention in the issue #147 of Wandering Weights, Dan John’s newsletter.

(If you do not know Dan John, suffices to say that he is our idea of a reliable source of health & fitness information. You can learn more about him at danjohn.net.)

The story is interesting and motivating, and it’s a good example of activity hack following sound sport science principles. Yet sports science plays no role whatsoever in the story as written. And its most important lesson reads between the lines. Continue reading A Story We Almost Missed

Activity Hacks for Busy People

Around 1.300 words, estimated reading time:
4 min (hacks only) or
6-7 min (hacks + theory)

In this post, we propose two hacks to add physical activity to your daily schedule:

These hacks hook exercise to existing habits. You can put them in practice today without having to start an exercise routine. If you already have one, you can use them to add useful exercises without extending your gym time.

These hacks have foundations in neurology and biomechanics. You do not need to know about it to make them work. But our hacks are inspired by a training protocol which is a hack in its own right, and we added a section about it (Hack #0). Feel free to skip the theory and to jump to Hack #1.

Continue reading Activity Hacks for Busy People