If you’re reading this sitting down, you won’t be the only one; sedentary lifestyles are a hallmark of modern society. Even if you exercise regularly, lifts, escalators, chairs and cars conspire to limit our movements and encourage static behaviour. The result, says movement coach Roger Frampton, is that our bodies have become restricted: tight, inflexible, and unable to perform basic movements. That’s bad news for your weekly attempts at yoga, but a poor downward dog is a less pressing issue than the eventual pain and immobility caused by these restrictions. There is, however, a stretch-based solution, as Frampton reveals to RSNG…
RSNG You gave a TED Talk titled ‘Why sitting down destroys you’ — what is so bad about sitting?
ROGER FRAMPTON, MOVEMENT COACH ‘The problem with sitting is the long periods of sedentary hours, with a body that has evolved to move. The second issue is that the chair is designed for comfort rather than how we are evolved to sit. If we want to see how we should sit we need look no further than the way children sit or how we sat as children. Children sit in a huge variety of positions on the floor, including on their “sit bones” and in a squat.’
‘Repetitive sitting down on chairs that starts at a very early age allows the body to relax into positions the floor would not allow, enabling the body to become soft, weak and tight. By spending a little bit of time every day undoing tightness in the body and working towards moving more in line with how we were evolved to move, we will reduce pain in the body and improve our long-term health.’
RSNG If sitting is the only option for people at work — which it is for many — how can they sit with better posture and less restriction?
RF ‘The most ideal way to sit on a chair is to sit on your sit bones rather than your bum muscles. The best way to accomplish this is to not lean back on the chair you are sat on. Sit forward and push your bum behind you — this flattens your lower back. The second thing you can do is raise your feet on books or a stool, so your hips are much lower than your knees. This mimics the squat position.’
What is the “Frampton Method”?
RF ‘When I first got into training my goal was to be big. That’s all I cared about: looking big and buff like a movie icon. The cost of that was that I disregarded my natural movement and added to my tightness. I may have looked the part, but I couldn’t touch my toes and sitting in a squat meant falling over backwards. So several years ago I decided I would take it upon myself to strip my body of all this tightness and spend time daily getting my natural flexibility back.’
‘The Frampton Method is the process of undoing tightness in the body and getting back to how we should/ could move. If you’re following the Frampton Method you are working your way back to how you moved as a child. The Frampton Method stems from my education in functional movement and therapy, which looks at the evolution of movement, and using some movement principles seen in yoga and gymnastics.’
RSNG What is the “cycle of restriction”?
RF ‘The cycle of restriction is the invisible cycle that inhibits our natural movement, keeps us tight and creates further tightness. The first part is things we do on a daily basis that go against our natural movement: tight clothes, ill-fitting shoes, and hanging bags on our shoulders are three of the main culprits. The second part is the social things that go against our natural movement. These include sitting for many hours on a regular basis, staring at screens, sitting on chairs/ sofas to eat, watching TV, work, travel and socialising. The third part of the cycle is the exercise choices we make that add to the tightness issues. These include using exercise to focus on what we visually look like, for sports-specific goals and as a weight-loss tool, rather than simply to move how we should.’
‘We’ve cured many diseases, but the disease of sedentary living and comfort addiction is a huge problem for our long-term health’
‘This triple cycle is what the majority of people are trapped in on a daily basis. Studies show 70% of 65 year olds now need long-term care, even though we’re living longer than we’ve ever lived. We’ve cured many diseases, but the disease of sedentary living and comfort addiction is a huge problem for our long-term health. A study out earlier this year reported sitting down for long periods of time was the cause of 70,000 deaths and costs our NHS £70 million a year.’
RSNG Can regular stretching reduce those restrictions?
RF ‘Yes, yes and yes! We need stretching now more than we’ve ever needed it. We spend so much time on our phones and being busy at work that stretching our body back to how it should be moving has been pushed to the back of the agenda. Having said that, we need to stretch for a purpose. Rather than just stretching for the sake of stretching, stretch so that you can touch your toes again, or stretch so that you can sit in a squat like you used to. I know it seems a long time ago, but there’s no reason why you can’t start that journey today. Stretching should be specific, which is why I encourage movement goals.’
RSNG What are some of the movements most of us can’t do, but should be able to?
RF ‘This is what I call movement goals. My book consists of 10 movement goals to work on. My top five are:
Sit in a squat.
Touch your toes with a flat back.
Sit up straight on the floor.
Hang from a bar for a reasonable amount of time.
Sit cross-legged both ways round.’
‘If we start taking care of ourselves today, we can keep taking care of ourselves for life’
RSNG Why is it important for us to be able to do these movements?
RF ‘Natural movement is our pension plan. When it comes to pension plans most of us think about money and what we will have for the future. But what if you get there and are stuck in a body that’s weak, tight, full of chronic pain and are reliant on somebody else to take care of you? For me, if I always take care of my body, my body will always take care of me. If we start taking care of ourselves today, we can keep taking care of ourselves for life. There are many, many examples of people well into their 80s and 90s doing what it takes and stretching their body daily using all types of movement practices. But start today. Just 10 minutes of self care for your body per day can make all the difference.’
RSNG What are three of the most effective stretches for removing restrictions?
RF ‘Like brushing your teeth, stretching needs to be applied regularly and often for the best rewards. You don’t have to stretch for hours every day, just make sure you are consistent. As though you're booking a holiday, I advise choosing a destination before packing your bags. Focus on the place you want to get to, choose yourself a movement goal and begin your journey today. The quicker you begin, the easier it gets. There are thousands of examples on my Instagram, YouTube, Facebook page and book, The Flexible Body. Spend two minutes in each stretch you choose.’
WHAT NEXT? Watch Roger Frampton’s TED Talk, Why Sitting Down Destroys You.
Comments are for information only and should not replace medical care or recommendations. Please check with your Doctor before embarking on exercise or nutrition regimes for the first time.