There’s no shortage of movement and exercise advice. From the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition in the US to the Centers for Disease Control, we are inundated with recommendations about how to exercise. We are told:
how often to move;
how much to move at a time;
what kind of movements we should do;
how intensely to move;
how much/what kind of food to eat before/during/after movement..
This list could go on and on. There’s so much information and advice out there that you’d need something like this to carry it around (perhaps while exercising, as this woman opted to do).
At least she can consult reference materials to make sure her hike is optimally executed.
Tracy wrote this post recently about an Australian research group that argued “People need to do five times the exercise recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) to stay healthy.” The group laid out guidelines for what they call “optimum” health. Tracy lists them below:
- Run between six and eight hours per week
- Ride for seven hours per week
- Swim for eight hours per week
- Walk briskly for 15-20 hours per week
Wow. As Tracy said, this is astonishing. And it’s impossible– who has time to exercise 36–43 hours a week? I mean, most of us have jobs and lives that might make this a teeny bit difficult to squeeze into our already-stuffed-to-the-gills schedules.
Well, there’s a new article in Outside Magazine (thanks, Sam, for sending this to me) that solved the problem: in short, exercise during work. It’s called “Always be Moving”.
Yes, you read that right. It turns out that exercise and movement alone are not sufficient for health and well-being, according to sources in the article. Of course, we already knew that sitting is not good for us. The article emphasizes this fact:
“Excessive sitting is a lethal activity,” Levine, who has studied sedentary behavior for nearly 20 years and is the most widely quoted expert on the topic, told The New York Times in 2011.
Lethal. As in office chair as lethal weapon.
But we already got the memo on this, and a lot of people having standing desks. Isn’t that good enough to avoid early death?
NO. Apparently we all need to be moving during our work day, all the time.
The solution to sitting isn’t to stand, though it helps. In fact, according to the findings of a 2015 consensus panel on the topic, we need to be on our feet two to four hours while at work. But the real solution is to move. All day. The stillness is what’s killing us. We should be pacing the hallways and climbing stairs and squatting and lunging and stretching.
Luckily there’s a handy guide to a sample during-workday-workout. Here it is from the article:
7 a.m. Morning run (45 minutes)
8:30 a.m.Walk to coffee shop (10 minutes)
9:15 a.m.25 push-ups (1 minute)
10 a.m.Wall sit (2 minutes). Walk around the building plus three flights of stairs (5 minutes)
10:45 a.m.20 body-weight squats (2 minutes). Trip to far water fountain (3 minutes)
11:30 a.m. Pick up papers at printer plus two flights of stairs (4 minutes)
12:15 p.m. 25 push-ups (1 minute). 15 side lunges, each leg (2 minutes). Plank pose (2 minutes). Pacing during phone call (10 minutes)
It goes on like this through the afternoon.
I have three things to say about this for now. First, Who has a job in which they can do these activities a) safely; b) comfortably; c) while getting their actual work done; d) without getting ridiculed or scolded or fired? As a professor with my own office (and locking office door) I could maybe do some of these things, but there’s still the issue of time (and the problem of being totally disheveled after a bunch of burpees– those are scheduled for 5pm, by the way).
Second, scare tactics like this seldom (by seldom I mean never) work as health advice. When we’re scared like this, we don’t respond by moving. We respond by being paralyzed. Like this:
Third, this advice, like the recommendations Tracy posted about, is based on someone’s notion of “optimal” health. It’s creating a moral panic about the public’s failure to take responsibility for their own health by not doing something they coulda/shoulda done. How we can increase our attention to our own health priorities requires a much more complex approach than running up and down two flights of stairs to the printer. It’s something this blog spends a lot of time talking about, from a variety of perspectives.
So when you’re at work, feel free to sit back and relax a bit. It’s not going to kill you.