What a Meerkat Can Teach You About Posture
By: Dr. Peggy Malone
I was chatting with a patient today who teaches Jui Jitsu and who told me that he uses the great visual of an upright Meerkat to remind his students to be mindful of their posture.
These petite creatures from South Africa are members of the mongoose family and as you can see from the picture above, the upright Meerkat is super-cute!
This characteristic posture, however, serves a purpose far greater than cuteness…it is key for Meerkat survival.
Standing upright like this, a Meerkat can see over low mounds and patches of grass in the desert landscape and scan their surroundings, where ground predators might be lying in wait.
Now let’s compare this to our postures as we go about our day sitting at our breakfast tables, driving in our cars, sitting at our desks and even doing our workouts.
Correcting our postures and getting our bodies moving a little more may not protect us from immediate danger as it does the Meerkat, but as we have talked about in previous posts, sustained postures like sitting are slowly killing us.
As human beings, we are designed to run and jump and hunt and gather. A hundred years ago, this was the typical way that human beings survived and made their living each day….in constant movement.
Now instead of moving all day in order to make our living, we typically sit still in a chair in front of a desk or a computer.
We are rewarded in work, transportation, entertainment and even in our social lives by sitting still in a chair. We sit to drive, to eat, to work at computers, to watch TV and to socialize.
Culturally we have evolved into very sedentary beings.
A 2009 study by Dr Peter Katzmarzyk and colleagues showed that the more time spent sitting was associated with an increased risk dying from any cause and risk of dying from cardiovascular disease was also increased.
The interesting thing about this study was that it showed that those increased risks of dying were independent of how much a person exercised! (What?!!….that was my reaction too)
Even after controlling for age, smoking, and physical activity levels, the people who sat the most were 50% more likely to die in the follow up period than those who sat the least.
So what this means in simple terms is that all things being equal, the person who sits the most will be more at risk of dying than the person who sits the least.
Hence, sitting can kill you.
So, let’s go back to the cute upright Meerkat with the excellent posture.
The Meerkat’s sharp binocular vision and wide peripheral range enable a visual survey of the air and ground, and although small, the positioning of the ears on the sides of the head and the Meerkat’s keen sense of hearing allow it to zero in on the precise location of a sound.
Now you may not have the keen sense of knowing immediately when your blood pressure is rising, when plaque is building in your arteries, when you are developing insulin resistance, diabetes or metabolic syndrome.
But….you can take a page out of that cute little Meerkat’s book and sit tall, stand tall, move your body out of your chair regularly throughout your day so that you can reduce the risk factors that I mentioned above that increase your risk of death.
Aren’t those cute little Meerkats so smart?
Now sit up tall, take 3 deep breaths.
Stand up. Reach up to the ceiling, take 3 more deep breaths.
Wiggle your butt and smile….ok now back to work.
Make this little routine an hourly ritual in your workspace. If you take 30 seconds to a minute each hour to get up and stand up tall Meerkat style and get your body moving a little bit, you will be in less pain, you will feel more energized, you will be more productive at work and….
You will be potentially saving your life.
Dr. Peggy Malone is a Chiropractor and an Athlete who helps other athletes to overcome injury and get back to their sport. Her weekly Television Series 'Living Well" inspires people from all walks of life to take control of their health to be as happy and as healthy as they can be.
A former varsity Basketball and Rugby player, she has since entered the world of endurance athletics where she has completed 2 Ironman Triathlons, 3 Marathons, several Half Marathons and many other Triathlons, Road Races and Off-Road Adventure races of varying distances.
Her own athletic endeavors and injuries have given her valuable insight into working with athletes in her practice for both the care of injuries as well as for the improvement of athletic performance.