Starting An Exercise Program

by DavalosMcCormack on April 5, 2007

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See these people? There’s nothing extraordinary about them. All they are doing is moving. It’s something humans evolved doing. So what is up with you? Have you stopped evolving? Get moving!

Some 2500 years ago Lao-tzu said “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. But who cares what some dead Chinese philosopher thinks, particularly now that no one actually walks anymore – I mean, who has the time!

But while Lao-tzu is long gone, his words are still very true, and just as relevant to us today. More importantly they can be used to help make even the most daunting task seems possible. For example if you think you have to lose 100lbs you are probably going to give up before you start. But if you think that all you have to do today is cut out one chocolate bar then you will probably think, “yeah, I can do that”. Tomorrow you do the same thing, but add in going for a five minute walk at lunchtime. Again, it’s not overwhelming. By day three you are cutting out a chocolate bar, walking five minutes, and eating one piece of fruit. The key is not to look at the end goal, but to look at the individual steps. Small is beautiful, because small is manageable.

So what follows are some simple ideas you can incorporate into your daily life, to help you be more active, be healthier. You don’t have to do all of them at once. You can do one a day, you can do a different one every day, you can find the ones you like and do those over and over until you are bored, then you can try some others, even come up with some ideas of your own (if you do, let us know, we love new ideas – we can pass them off as our own and look smarter than we are, which is not hard really.. but that’s another story.)

The key is to find what works for you, because then you are more likely to stick with that and more likely to make it part of your life, for the rest of your life.

TURNING WORK INTO WORK-OUT

Most of us spend far too many hours sitting at a desk, in front of a computer where the only parts of our bodies getting exercise are our fingers and eyeballs. It’s no wonder so many people are not only overweight, they also have back problems and carpal tunnel syndrome. Our bodies were designed to move, not to sit still. But how do you add more movement to your day, when your boss wants to keep you chained to your desk to do more work.

You could always copy the example of Dr. James Levine, an obesity researcher at the Mayo Clinic. Levine put his laptop computer on top of a treadmill, and then set the machine to run at 1mph. That speed was slow enough to allow him to work, sending emails and writing documents, yet it was fast enough to allow him to burn an extra 100 calories an hour. Over the course of a typical person’s 7 hour day, including lunch break, that is 700 calories you have burned up, without stopping work.

While that is probably not a practical approach for most of us, it does show that with a bit of imagination you can find ways around the problem. Here are few other suggestions.

1) Weight while waiting: bring small hand weights to work, and while you are on the phone, on hold, or just chatting use the weights to help build upper body strength. Simple, repetitive exercises can help strengthen and tone your arms, shoulders and chest without ever leaving your desk.

2) Find some balance: if you don’t have a headset for your phone and have to answer it the old fashioned way, with your hands, you can still get some exercise. Whenever the phone rings, stand up, answer it while balancing on one leg, or by doing squats. As you get better at talking while balancing on one leg, switch legs, raise it higher, do it with your eyes closed. Something as simple as that can burn extra calories, stretch your muscles, build core strength and coordination. Over time small changes can make a big difference.

3) Take a break: instead of working for hour after hour, get up every 15 – 30 minutes and move around. Instead of emailing a colleague walk over to them and talk to them in person. It all adds up. A study by researchers at the Mayo Clinic found that thin people are on their feet an average of 152 minutes more a day than overweight people.

4) Take the stairs: how many times have you stood and waited for the elevator for what seemed like ages, just to go up or down one or two floors. Next time, take the stairs. It’s great exercise, it’s often faster, and because you are not crammed up with coughing, sneezing folks in the elevator, it’s also healthier.

5) Stand up for yourself: if you take public transportation to and from work don’t grab a seat, stand up. You’ll be able to read just as easily and it is better for you, improving your balance and core muscle strength.

These are just five simple ideas to help get you thinking about getting moving. Look around you, find ways that work best for you, that work best for the kind of work you do, the kind of office you are in. The only limits are your willingness to try something different, and your imagination. If you feel slightly embarrassed about doing some of these things in front of your colleagues, tell them why you are doing them, get them to join in, even get them to come up with ideas of their own on how to be active at work.

For more information on Dr. James Levine’s work go to http://cancercenter.mayo.edu/mayo/research/levine_lab/

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