Home/office based mini-exercise routines: an update

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post discussing my new home-based mini-exercise routine. That post received a tremendous number of comments from our readers, and was also picked up by BoingBoing which led to some more comments on that site, as well as a radio appearance by yours truly. As the comments we received were very instructive, I thought I’d take a moment to discuss some of the most helpful suggestions posted.

Taking breaks from being sedentary doesn’t have to involve “exercise”

While this is exactly what I do, and is a method I enjoy, a number of readers had other suggestions:

Dirk Hanson says the following:

“I’ve started arranging things in a way that requires me to bounce up from my desk at various intervals for 15 minute chore breaks–watering all the house plants, filling the bird feeders, vacuuming one room, making coffee, getting something out of the garage, taking a brief walk, whatever.”

Another commenter, Michele, echoes this sentiment and says:

“I find the house is staying cleaner these days.”

Over at BoingBoing, Rob has the following criticism of my methods:

“I commend the effort but dislike the means. Learning a new dance move… Learning to juggle… Walk a bit further for your smoke break…”

I think this is also an excellent idea – taking the mini-breaks to practice or learn a new skill. While I haven’t yet incorporated this into my lifestyle, my first task will be to learn to juggle. (For those readers who are unaware, Travis is an avid juggler and joggler who used to perform in festivals and try to break joggling records, and I have always been envious of his ability to juggle. While juggling flaming torches or swords is a bit beyond my ambition – juggling 3 balls would be a great party trick to learn.)

Another commenter on BoingBoing also finds my approach boring:

“I discovered early-on that doing repetitive exercises that focused only a particular group of muscles or movements (such as sit-ups or jumping jacks) only left me tired and aching whereas dancing–which requires the movement of many minute muscles as well as larger groups–leaves my heart thumping but my mind and body eventually enervated and relaxed.”

So for those of you more inclined to dance rather than do push-ups – go for it! I may try to revive the moonwalk I had perfected in grade 6, but that’s probably as far as I’ll go.

While there are challenges to my approach for those who do not work from home, creativity helps overcome such hurdles.

JennyBean42 has an awesome suggestion for those who work in an office environment where a “walk break” might be frowned upon by management:

“There is only one person in my husband’s small office that actually smokes, and takes the repeated smoke breaks regularly.

However, my husband, and couple of his coworkers, pissed at how much extra time and fresh air the smoker got, now repeatedly take “smoke breaks” themselves.

Actually, it’s usually just a quick walk around the parking lot. But for some reason, calling it a “smoke break” makes it more socially acceptable than if any of them said they were going to “go take a walk and get some fresh air.”

Our good friend, Amby Burfoot, says:

“Creativity is great, especially for those who are young and working at home. For those of us in the office, and older, it’s less about creativity and more about ease, consistency, and most-bang-for-least hassle. As you suggest, I simply get out of my office and walk around the perimeter of the building much more than I used to, also going up and down several flights of stairs in our 3-story office building. When standing at my reading desk, I often stand on just one foot, and then the other.”

Erzatsen has another quirky suggestion for office workers:

“If you’re worried about walking around the office randomly, try carrying a piece of paper and a pen out in the open. It’ll make you look like you’re traveling on purpose, maybe to get a signature or something. And no one knows where you’re headed, but you look like you’re busy.”

Smmeddley had these ingenious ideas for the office worker:

“I do a lot of little mini-exercises while at my desk, from the Twittercise recommendations (I particularly like their ‘Bakery Trucks’). I also like to get up and pace when I’m on the phone, if possible (this also helps reduce stress if the phone call is not particularly a happy one).

There are a bunch of belly dance moves you can work into your day, as well, from a few belly rolls, chest lifts and slides, or snake arms while seated, to doing a shimmy walk (instead of an easy stroll) to the coffee machine or bathroom. And things like practicing hand ripples can also help your hands and wrists, especially if you have joint problems from too much typing!”

There are some limitations to the mini-exercise approach

Anon, over at Boing-Boing poijted out this drawback of my approach:

“Nice idea. The problem is it’s a huge mental burden constantly nagging at you. Starting is the hardest part of doing exercise and now you have to do it multiple times a day. Plus, as a programmer, I need uninterrupted time to get into the zone — I feel like I have enough interruptions already.”

To overcome this limitation, anon goes on to suggest an alternative scheduling strategy:

“Here’s a potential mod that might be less obtrusive and get some of the same benefits: P-ups. Whenever you go to the bathroom, do some smallish set number of pushups/squats whatever. Pros: Makes the break you’re taking already a little more physically stimulating without interrupting your concentration. Less memory-burden because it’s associated with a “task” you’re doing already. Cons: the associating is mildly disgusting. You need the right bathroom setup.”

What can I say? We have some AWESOME readers! Thanks to all for commenting and sharing your fantastic ideas. If you have another method that has not been discussed previously – let us know in the comments below.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Peter

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3 Responses to Home/office based mini-exercise routines: an update

  1. Leslie Cook says:

    I work from home and I have the most productive days when I “walk to work” – I leave at 8 or 8:30 and walk a couple of kilometres until I arrive back home to begin my work day – then at the end of the day I walk the same route, but in the opposite direction. It makes me feel like I’ve book-ended the day, gives me some separation between work hours and home hours, and it’s a welcome opportunity to get some fresh air.

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  2. Bobbie Lynn says:

    The issue mentioned for programmers is a reasonable point. One of the big problems often discussed in programming is eliminating every possible interruption.

    The ability to maintain a lot of information in your memory is important to programming efficiently and well. The problem with this is that every time you have to switch your attention to anything else for any reason whatsoever, you will often spend more time getting all that information back into your working memory than you spent paying attention to the other task (quickly checking on your email, for example).

    I guess not every type of work is going to be well suited to the same strategies. Programmers (and people with similar optimal work style) may be a situation where approaches that create constant motion like treadmill desks, standing, bicycle pedals under the desk, etc make sense because you can get going and zone out on that part of activity and save the task switching.

    On the other hand, perhaps someone could just write an application that would interpret your behavior cues on the computer to determine whether or not you’d switched your attention away from the project anyway, and then remind you to get up and move for a minute. (For example, bringing your email client to the foreground could be taken as a cue to pop up a message that this would be a good time to consider getting up and stretching a bit.)

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