Meet Mark

Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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Tag: mobility

How to Regain and Maintain Hip Mobility

Yesterday, I made a case for the necessity of good hip mobility in, well, everyone. Athletes will get faster, stronger, and more powerful. Lifters will be able to lift more weight and squat heavier without rounding the lower back. Regular folks will spare their lower back from the stress of chronic sitting and bending over to pick things up. Extensive hip mobility will improve your love life (seriously, think about it – hip thrust, range of motion!), your deadlift, your Grok squat, and your posture. If you own a set of hips, the ability to traverse their full range of motion will improve your life in many ways. They are the fulcrum upon which most activity depends. Treat them well, keep them well lubed and tuned up, and you will reap the benefits and reduce your chance of injury. That much is pretty clear by now.

So, how do you do it? How do you get hip mobility, and how do you maintain it?

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The Importance of Mobility: The Hips

People are exceedingly mobile these days. We can jet halfway across the world at a moment’s notice, check email on our phones, hop in the car and be in another state in five hours, conduct business from anywhere, transfer schools, and shave while reading the paper on the morning commute. Social mobility, financial mobility, spatial mobility, information mobility. Mobile workforce, mobile phone, Google Mobile. Yeah, clearly, mobility is highly prized.

What about joint mobility?

Too many people discount, or even outright ignore, this crucial aspect of physical fitness. Raw strength, speed, and stamina are all important, especially to athletes or weekend warriors, but everyone of any age or fitness level needs the ability to move their limbs and joints through their full range of motion as ordained by nature. That goes for grandmothers, teens, and couch potatoes alike. Though not everyone will be picking up barbells or running sprints or long jumping, we all have to function in a three-dimensional world. We all have space and gravity with which to contend if we’re planning on enjoying and experiencing all life offers, and that’s accomplished by moving through spatiality and against gravity. To thrive in this environment, we require the full, unfettered use of our limbs, joints, and muscles. Losing the shoes is a big step; so is getting strong and fit. One of the biggest, in my opinion, is regaining and maintaining maximum joint mobility.

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How-to Guide: Standing at Work

Besides stuff like tribal warfare, cannibalism, and high infant mortality, it seems like most any divergence from our ancestral norms is ultimately detrimental, or at least problematic. Nutrition is an obvious one, along with sunlight, sleep, and exercise. The mainstream media is even beginning to question the superiority of modern footwear. And then there’s the seemingly simple act of sitting down in a chair. It seems harmless, but as I discussed last year and a recent NY Times piece mentioned last month, sitting for extended periods of time is strongly linked with increased mortality and metabolic syndrome, regardless of how much exercise a sitter gets.

The chair is a bit like wheat, actually: a relative novelty to which we aren’t physiologically adapted that has become a cultural staple nonetheless. For at least eight hours each day, we twist our bodies into weird Tetris blocks with poor posture and sit, for the most part unmoving, on chairs. When you stop and think about it, sitting down in a chair for extended periods of time seems a little silly. I mean, it’s not even all that comfortable (isn’t that why we distort our bodies with terrible posture – to make sitting more comfortable?). We aren’t “designed” to sit in chairs. We’re certainly meant to stand, but we sit in chairs because we designed them to fit our anatomy, and I somehow doubt that whoever came up with the chair was thinking about long-term effects on our physiology.

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How to Improve Your Posture

Just because Conventional Wisdom seems to get almost everything wrong when it comes to effective fitness, proper human nutrition, and preventing degenerative diseases, it doesn’t necessarily follow that all official recommendations and prescriptions are faulty. Cigarettes are bad for your health, for example, and drinking and driving actually do not mix. Those are two obvious examples of CW getting it right, and there are definitely a few others, but today, I’m mostly interested in the popular concept of good posture. What is posture? Is “good posture,” as defined by chiropractors, teachers, office ergonomic consultants, drill sergeants, and Grandma (“straighten up, sonny!”), actually good for us? Or have the experts gotten it wrong, once again? Looking around me, if people are listening to the professional advice, it’s bad advice. Slumping, slouching – I see it everywhere, every day, and not just when people are sitting. Can we apply the Primal Blueprint approach to posture and toss it all out?

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You Might Want to Sit Down for This

Or maybe you don’t. It turns out that sitting in a chair – that time honored tradition we commonly associate with rest, relaxation, and recuperation (don’t forget mind-numbing work, too!) – is actually bad for us. At least, the way we approach sitting is health harmful. The occasional dalliance with a straight-backed office chair probably isn’t a problem, but when we spend most of our waking life sitting (or, even worse, slumping over) in a chair, we invite disaster. Such sedentarism is a real problem, and a recent one. Grok certainly wasn’t bound to a desk. He may have had more off time than we do (if modern hunter-gatherers are any indication), but he didn’t spend it subjecting his body to extended bouts of unnatural contortions. And there’s the other big difference: the way we sit is completely unnatural. Instead of sprawling out, hands behind our heads, legs outstretched, we moderns “relax” in a chair – a piece of furniture with which we have relatively new relations.

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Yoga Therapy?

Primal living, of course, is ultimately about overall wellness. Sure, we focus a lot on nutrition and exercise (important points, after all), but these topics are only part of the picture. Wellness, as it’s often defined, embodies healthful living in several dimensions of self-care and actualization. Our sense of emotional well-being, for example, figures strongly into our quality of life, and it’s about more than just personal happiness. Stress and unmanaged mental health concerns can take a true physical toll. In chronic cases, poor mental health/stress can become a downward, damaging spiral. We’re talking immune dysfunction, high blood pressure, systemic inflammation…. Stress response can even contribute to heart disease and cancer in extreme cases.

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The Single Best Stretch

If you happen to read the L.A. Times as I do, you may have caught their visual guide to a variation of one of the most beneficial stretches you can do, regardless of your fitness level: the wide-legged squat. I vlogged about this last week, so check out my quick beach sprint video to see how to do it. This very natural stretch is practiced all over the world by many cultures. For those who sit in front of a computer all day, it is really essential to eliminate tightness and tension. It’s the perfect way to stretch the legs, knees, glutes, back and more. And it just feels great, too. Try it out now.

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In Search of a Good Friday Stretch

Hi gang! Here are a few cool facts about yoga and why simple stretching techniques are healthy for adults and the seedlings alike.

1. Lung Relief

Many of us never stretch our sides. Doing this is excellent for the lungs (and you don’t even have to say ommmmm). Stretching your sides also reduces stored tension in the chest cavity. By improving flexibility and expanding those ribs, you will breathe easier, which is always a wonderful way to restore a sense of relaxation. (Breathing from the base of the torso, rather than the upper chest, is an instant way to calm down.)

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Mat Magic

Introducing a new feature at Mark’s Daily Apple: Sara Shops (it’s a tough task, but she’s up for the challenge.) I recently took to yoga and have had quite a bit of fun (make that hip pain) finding the ideal mat. I’ll spare you the pain and eyebrow-raising I endured by sharing my newfound knowledge of rubber rugs with you. In case you’ve never tried yoga, or think it’s for hippies or Madonna, I highly recommend it. Not only will you glow like a little glowworm, you’ll feel relaxed and loose. Bonus: you’ll lose a few pounds around your middle after just a few sessions (yoga really does massage your organs and flush toxins). It can be pricey, but I’ve managed to find a few spots that offer great package deals, and I even learned about a group that gets together for free – and apparently, this goes on all over the place. Cool! There are many different types of yoga, of course. Personally, I’m loving good old hatha for increasing my flexibility and sense of relaxation. Although, the two hours being pushed and prodded in iyengar by a very serious husband-and-wife team – easily in their 70s – was more entertaining than anything the Wilson brothers have come up with lately. He was good cop, she was bad cop (I’ve never been so intimidated by someone who weighed, at most, 85 pounds soaking wet). On to the mat. Not knowing if I would want to stick with yoga, I chose the cheapest mat available. Not a move I’d suggest following (unless you want to put up with some smirks and a lot of pain). After the first session, I knew that I would definitely want to stick with yoga. Unfortunately, I also stuck to my new mat. Though it only cost about $15, the lightweight, all-synthetic foam was far too thin (only about 1/8″) and not nearly squishy enough. Being so thin (the mat), all my joints ached like the dickens the next day. So, I upgraded to a vinyl sponge mat for $25. This one was a little more generously proportioned (72″ instead of 68″) and is the standard mat most folks go with. It’s still just 1/8″, but it’s squishy, waterproof, and closed-cell non-Latex (this just means it’s better for you because it won’t harbor bacteria). It also has a nice meshy grid that helps you grip. However, after a few weeks with this guy, I was seriously hurting. Maybe my joints are a little too princess-and-the-pea, but I decided to see what else was available. I began really investigating the world of yoga mats. All yoga mats break down with use, which actually tends to make them more comfortable (sort of like shoes). And there is a mat for everyone: there are breast cancer mats (a mat for every cause), organic mats made of jute and bamboo (ego-friendly!), temperature-sensitive mats, travel mats, microfiber mats. There are probably even mats that read your mind (ok, maybe not). … Continue reading “Mat Magic”

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