Pack Matthews: Sitting is the New Smoking But You’ve Got Options (Full Transcript)

Full Transcript of founder of, Pack Matthews’ TEDx Talk: Sitting is the New Smoking But You’ve Got Options at TEDxCoMo conference.


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Pack Matthews – Founder,

I want to thank, first off, Cale Sears and Keith Politte for the way they organized this whole TED talk is that the speakers got a chance to hear each other ahead of this event and the feedback that we got actually informed our presentations, and the presentations have evolved as a result of that.

Every one of you has a cell phone. And each one of you is a synapse of your own personal networks, your own social networks, and we’ll be talking more about thresholds and event horizons. And so you’re welcome if something grabs you enough that you want to tweet it during my presentation, you’re welcome to do that because it will help you see how the synapses in our networks work.

So, I chose this image because I like to mix metaphors. I mix a lot of metaphors in my kitchen of my mind, and really sweet things come out. So what you’re looking at is a sailing ship, and it’s a metaphor for the dance between gravity, all of our sinew and fascia in our body, and the rigid parts of our anatomy, our skeleton. So that sailboat and its rigging is a similar sort of dance, and a magic combination of flexibility and rigidity. The waterfall that it’s so improbably next to is a metaphor for gravity that’s all around us, and all the event horizons, seen and unseen. So we’re going to be talking about a way to amplify some particular event horizons in your life.

Now if you Google “point of no return” — this dates me, this was a cover of an album of the band “Kansas” from back when I was in junior high. So the popular idea, and I had this too, is that the point of no return is right on the edge of the waterfall. However, the point of no return is actually fairly far upstream.

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I had the opportunity to see Niagara Falls for the first time travelling with my wife, she lived near there, where she grew up. And as we were driving along the Niagara River toward the falls, she pointed out a small, nondescript sign along the water there, and it said, ‘not a good idea to boat past this point; you might not be able to get back.’ That was the point of no return. It was miles away from the waterfall. Without that sign, there was no way to know that you were passing an inflection point like that, that you were passing an event horizon. So many of our event horizons don’t come with helpful signs like that.

Sitting is the new smoking. Not very good news, is it? How many of you have heard this phrase before? So, if you Google “sitting is the new smoking,” you’ll find lots of research, and I’ll be talking a little more about the research behind it in a minute. But you can think of it as a really bad thing, or you can think of it as a good thing, it means that we’ve moved our society health wise, upstream from some of these old event horizons. So we’re no longer so close to saber tooth tigers, or wounds without antibiotics, or smoking — we’re past smoking now — and now we’re floating along in the benign realm of sitting, right?

However, we are paying a high price for our sedentary lifestyle, and that’s what this phrase is about. I was saying this in jest just a year ago after I discovered how problematic sitting in chairs was for me, for maintaining the flexibility that I wanted to maintain, and my own mobility. And part of this research was done right here at MU by a professor named Mark Hamilton. What he discovered was that if you have a sedentary work-style where you’re sitting for eight hours a day, if you commute an hour each way, there aren’t enough hours left in the day, even if you spent them all at the gym vigorously working out.

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And this research here was published last summer in the Lancet. It was a meta-analysis of studies done all over the world, primarily in first-world countries, of the health risks of a sedentary lifestyle which is as high as smoking, as high as obesity. So why is this? The reason that a sedentary lifestyle is so bad for us is because we weren’t designed to be sedentary at all. And we have this internal structure called fascia. It’s really an internal 3D printing machine. We’re printing this stuff all the time. It can print sinews that are very thin, cellophane-type little packets that surround and insulate muscles and nerve endings. It can be printed as steel rods that some of us can feel running up and down our spines — really, really strong, tensile strength. And it can re-form itself as well. But we have to manage it and we have to dance with it. It loves to be masterfully led in a dance.

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