A Sedentary Life

So, I have done my civic duty – 4 weeks of it to be precise!! When I received a jury citation I thought that it would be a very slim chance I would be picked via the random numbers in a bowl method (after all I never win at raffles!) – particularly since there were 165 people present. However the numbers were against me and my number ended up being plucked out of the bowl last of all! Lucky winner number 15! I thought, well that’s going to be a pain for a few days… never suspecting that I would be part of the longest trial in history (well – that’s how it felt at least!!)

We were initially told that it was to be a slightly longer than usual trial and to expect 2-3 weeks at most. This was annoying enough, being self-employed, but there were many, many delays during the trial – particularly at the start - and we ended up into a fourth week. Whilst being an overall interesting experience, it was also a very frustrating time, as you are unable to take any work in with you. But perhaps even more importantly – and unexpectedly - it gave me a real insight into living a more sedentary life for a month.

I started each day very typically for me. Up at 6am and a fasted walk (or run on some occasions) with my dogs for about an hour. I then usually followed this with a short workout such as a 12-minute non- stop kettlebell session, or a bike sprint. Then I packed up my lunch essentials (the lunches were provided but unfortunately left a lot to be desired – perhaps another blog post in the making!), and headed out of the door around 8.30am for an hour’s drive into town. The car park was a very short walk to the courts (I had used one further away for the first two days but I soon came to realise that at the end of the day if we finished late it ensured a very stressful dash to get to the car in order to get back for my evening classes on time!).

The court days began sat in the juror’s room until we were called into the court session – which was due to start at 10am each morning. The first two days we did not get into the courtroom all morning – just sat (or, in my case, stood as much as possible) in the juror’s room, not knowing what the delays were about (we were informed at the end of the trial why these had occured).

So, the first two days incurred a whole morning of delays, and since the trial had not yet started, we were allowed to leave at 12pm so that we could take a walk around town for an hour before we were then taken for our lunch – to a pub around the corner. After an hour sitting at lunch we were then returned to the juror’s room, after which we were summoned into the courtroom and released for the day. So – once again sat in the car driving home for an hour.

Since I have exercise classes to teach in the evening this forced me to get out and move, however I was tired – and somewhat frustrated! My kickboxing class really came into it’s own that first day!!

So as the trial got underway our days were very structured; court starts around 10am, morning break for twenty minutes at 11.30am(ish) in the juror’s room, lunch at 1-2pm, afternoon session 2-4/4.30pm. At least during the morning break there was the possibility of standing and walking around the small room, but being in the courtroom of course meant sitting still and not being able to stand at all, with seats similar to those at the cinema, so pretty limited space.

Now I realise that I may not represent the typical person, but that worries me even more. I was, at least, including some forms of exercise at the beginning and end of my day – plus I eat a very nutrient dense diet. The lunches provided were very poor, mostly consisting of macaroni cheese (and chips), sandwiches (and chips), soup (with chips on the side if wanted), or a salad – which on the first day included no protein or fat whatsoever. I had to ask for chicken, which a couple of other jurors then also requested on subsequent days. (I ended up taking in different bits and pieces such as salmon, or mackerel or pate, hard boiled eggs etc and extra veggies to add to my salad – plus my own olive oil & balsamic dressing). A couple of times I just took a smoothie to make a change! The small salads that were provided with the sandwiches, soup and macaroni cheese were usually left untouched by those who had ordered these dishes. There were many jurors who also ordered a dessert; sticky toffee pudding, crumble, or brownie and ice-cream. So the typical food for a whole month consumed by most of the jury members was high carb, high trans fat, low protein and virtually non-existent in healthy fats – not very stimulating for an afternoon of brain taxing jury duty! (And this was a particularly brain taxing case with an immense amount of paperwork exhibited).

At the end of every day I experienced a feeling of exhaustion. I appreciate that it was, of course, mentally draining to be concentrating for long periods of time, however I felt physically wiped out even though I had not moved much at all for the majority of the day. A couple of times during my drive home I nearly fell asleep at the wheel!! Scary!

Interestingly, thrown into the midst of this was a court holiday, which meant we had the day off. I was able to spend it doing my normal routine; I scheduled in a couple of clients for the morning, after my usual walk & short workout, and caught up with some paperwork and housework in the afternoon. By the time my class rolled around I was still full of energy and couldn’t wait to get there. Completely different scenario and the only thing that was different about my day was the amount of movement I had included – pretty much without thinking.

Whilst I have always understood, and acknowledged, the health issues surrounding being sedentary, this experience has resulted in a real empathy for those who have long commutes and office jobs. More and more people are spending their days travelling in cars or on trains, sitting at a desk all day, travelling back home, feel too tired to raise the energy to go out for a walk or to a class or the gym, and end up sitting down watching TV all evening until they go to bed.

Combined with a nutrient-poor diet, it is easy to see how the obesity epidemic has taken hold and chronic diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes, heart disease etc have become so much more prevalent in our society.

Having experienced this feeling of lack-lustre and general fatigue first hand, I can say, unequivocally, that it is ESSENTIAL to include much more movement in your day if these are issues you are constantly facing. It isn’t enough to simply go to the gym or a dog walk once a day (although these things certainly help, don’t get me wrong). Incorporating small increments of general movement throughout the day are absolutely necessary in order to achieve better health. Research shows, in fact, that sitting all day negates the effects of an hour spent in the gym.

So what can we do? Well it doesn’t have to be an intense, time consuming, all-out effort (although adding one of those into your day would certainly be beneficial! 😉 ) but you can start by simply getting up for ten minutes out of every hour to move around, stretch some muscles, perhaps go up and down the stairs a couple of times (if your office has any) and spend a proportion of your lunch hour going for a walk.

Movement is indeed medicine, and by including more in our daily life we can hopefully start to mitigate the problems that result from a sedentary life.

Read more on this topic and get some practical advice here and here.

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