Once every few years, science marks a new milestone and declares with a lot of fanfare that something is good or bad for you. There is then a frantic rush to embrace modernity and get in pace ‘with the times’. Recently, our office looked into getting standing workstations, so while working at your desk on the computer, you no longer sit but stand… why you ask? Read two articles from trustworthy sources – verbatim.
For the layperson, this is just like Fatwa shopping, as you do not know which expert to listen to or follow. Your job requires you to sit/stand for long periods of time with no opportunity for breaks or movement. How are you to stay healthy and manage your posture? The answer is always simple as my grandmother used to say… look to what the Prophet (sa) would do.
The Prophet’s (sa) practice in positive posture
The Prophet (sa) was a very physically fit person. Following his example is the best strategy for us, as it does not change with new research or dies down due to being a fad. His lifestyle is the model that is an illustration of balance between physical health and spiritual growth. Islam offers us a holistic approach to our health. There is a Hadeeth: “The strong believer is better and more beloved to Allah (swt) than the weak believer, while there is good in both.” (Muslim) This clearly tells us that maintaining physical health is a desirable trait in a believer.
- Prayers. Plan your schedule around the five prayers. Do not miss them; they provide the opportunity to sit, stand, stretch, and calm your mind as well. You must do this 5 times a day and so this is the ‘stretch’ posture change break from a sedentary or stationary posture – where energy expenditure is low.
- Walking. As part of his daily routine, the Prophet (sa) used to walk around the city and visit the market or a companion’s home. Make it a habit to walk every day by parking at the back of the parking lot, by getting off at one bus stop before your actual one, and by walking over to a colleague’s desk instead of emailing or calling him. Once you start, it will become effortless.
In a Hadeeth reported in Tirmidhi by Ali (rtam), the Prophet’s (sa) walking style is described as follows: “When he walked, because of the speed and force of the legs, it seemed as if he was descending from a high place.” Abu Hurairah (rtam) narrated: “I did not see anyone walk faster than him, as if the earth folded for him. A few moments ago he would be here and then there. We found it difficult to keep pace when we walked with him and he walked at his normal pace.” (Tirmidhi)
- Resting. The Prophet (sa) made sure his energy was always at the optimal level. He would rest during the day and sleep well after Isha. He wouldn’t sleep for long periods of time like over 8 hours, but would make the best of his time by not being distracted in his sleep. This might seem hard for us in our hyper connected lives, but take that leap – turn your devices off!
- Family time. Make sure your family time is not spent in front of the TV. You can enjoy many simple activities as a family like preparing dinner together, going for walks, participating in a sport like throwing the ball around, playing tag/cricket, or even cleaning the house on the weekends or washing dishes. This keeps you active and helps you share experiences and create family memories.
- Moderation. Just use common sense. Any repeated movement or no movement for an extended period of time is harmful. That is why the Prophet (sa) taught us to do everything in moderation. If you sit for 8 hours, then every 30 minutes or an hour, stand up, stretch your legs and arms, do shoulder rolls, walk to talk to a colleague, and then start working again. If you stand, get a drink of water; sit when you drink it slowly in 3 sips.
- Activity. Take up an active hobby. The Prophet (sa) encouraged archery, as it teaches you self-control, patience, and practice to master a skill. It also requires one to be physically strong and healthy. Your activity should be something you enjoy – swimming, gardening, window shopping, cooking – anything that will move you away from a stationary posture. “Our bodies have evolved over millions of years to do one thing: move,” says James Levine, M.D., Ph.D., of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
Bukhari narrated that the Prophet (sa) said: “Two bounties, regarding which many people cheat themselves, are health and free time.” So make sure you do not neglect your health by following whatever the latest trend happens to be: eat butter, stand and work, chocolate is good for the heart, carbohydrates make you fat and lethargic, etc. Once you decide you will improve your health by making small but significant changes to your routine, you will be happier and healthier.
- Set goals. Start off with a friend or your spouse and kids. Your smart phone can now effortlessly measure the steps you took, miles you walked and much more. Set a target to walk 10,000 steps a day; even walking around the house counts, while setting the table for dinner. Be specific and realistic.
- Stay committed. No matter what, once you start, do not stop. Soon the Prophet’s (sa) lifestyle will become yours and you can reap all the benefits of the Prophet’s (sa) wisdom and Allah’s (swt) guidance. You know these will not change when science discovers something new.
- Start small. Just as Allah (swt) gradually revealed all His commandments, we should start small, with one habit we want to change and decide how to change it.
- Drink water. Do not get fooled by zero calorie soda or sugar-free juice. The Prophet’s (sa) favourite drink was milk or water, and we always stick with what the Prophet (sa) taught us – right?
So stand up or sit down at work, but be sure to move it when you get a chance with family and friends. Stay fit and alert, be calm and follow Sunnah. I leave you with a simple thought…
“Whatever of good reaches you, is from Allah, but whatever of evil befalls you, is from yourself.” (An-Nisa 4:79)