Stealth exercise: how to sneak it into the day

If you’re one of those rare people whose workday includes a lot of physical activity, this post may not apply to you–unless, like me, you have some aches and pains you have to be careful with.

It’s about an interesting article I just read—a reprint from Outside Magazine—with a new spin on the often-quoted advice that desk workers should regularly get up and move. What was new to me is the claim that being active outside of work hours doesn’t compensate for long sedentary hours during the workday.

First I apologize for not including a link to the article. (I confess I’m a little peeved that the site is not easy to search.) But I’m writing about it anyway because after I’d read it online, I realized that it presented a solution to a problem I’m dealing with—and I wanted to share.

The article was about the writer’s attempts to incorporate physical activity during his workday. He used an app (Move, perhaps) that gave him a task—walk, lunges, etc.—every 45 minutes he was at work. He became adept at stealth exercising: linking his computer to a printer at the other end of the building, walking with files to give the impression that he was on his way somewhere, doing lunges or a wall press out of sight of the door, etc. I loved it, having worked in places where the need to move would not be considered a good reason to leave my desk.

But since I am now self-employed, I don’t have to worry about what anyone else thinks about my restless progress through my workdays—I get up and move frequently, just because it feels good, and because it helps my mind work. The bonus for me was realizing I can use these mini-breaks during the day to do the specific exercises I know I need to do to help me stay—or get—stronger: plank pose is one, for example. Like everyone I know who’s over 40, I have some back issues, or shoulder issues, or hip issues—let’s face it, after a certain point, there are always issues.

I’m fortunate to have found a wonderful physical therapist, and the exercises he suggests really work, but unfortunately the results only show up when I actually do the exercises. (I know I’m not the only one!) Right after a painful episode, it’s easy to find the motivation and the time to do the exercises all at once. But when the urgency fades, it’s much harder—I think it will be easier to do them one at a time, as breaks in my workday, than trying to find time to do all of them at once. (Okay, 400+ words written—time for a plank pose.)

Notes: it seems to be working—I am finding it easier to get most if not all of the prescribed exercises into my day. Also, the PT I mentioned is Ed Deboo, who has a useful series of videos on YouTube about dealing with common aches, pains, or injuries. Check it out.

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