67A Henry Street, San Francisco, Ca 94114
Work. Walk 5 Minutes. Work.
The New Year is here, and new beginnings encourage all of us to consider starting something, changing something, finding new ways to grow and be better (like, say, finally writing some content for one’s website…).
One of the things I frequently encourage my clients to consider as a change in the way they approach work is to incorporate movement into their daily work schedule.
We are all hopefully becoming aware that moving and inhabiting our bodies is a crucial aspect of our balanced existence, especially in an environment and culture that accentuates being in one’s head. We’re also becoming aware through studies and personal living experience how toxic and challenging the simple act of sitting in a chair all workday long is. It’s not good for us, raises our blood pressure and cholesterol, increases the chance of cardiovascular disease, can interfere with digestion, and even contributes to fatigue and lower productivity. So, what to do?
Many people I’ve worked with have contemplated switching to a standing desk, which can partially solve the issue of the physiological problems of sitting, and yet it doesn’t really get the body moving and can contribute to other concerns.
I have long encouraged my clients and friends to give their bodies and their brains a number of short breaks from the screens and DO something. Walk the long way to the coffee pot, the water cooler and then the bathroom.
Get out of the chair and just do 3 minutes of stretching and breathing. Something. Anything! As long as it’s physical. (That’s not to say you should stop walking to work, or hitting the gym or a yoga class – this is an addition to your physical self-care, not a substitution.)
One of the things I hear, and have also dealt with personally, is the sense of TIME. Where am I going to find the time, in an already busy day, to add in 20 minutes of stretching, or 30 minutes of walking? I only have half an hour for lunch!
The truth is, that while change always requires sacrifices, it also benefits from creative thinking: no one is saying you have to do those things all at once. In fact recent research is showing that breaking it up over the course of a day can reap all the benefits and create some additional ones of their own.
My personal experience found that fitting in 3-5 minutes of stretching, 4 times a day was way better than trying to find 15-20 minutes to stretch, mostly because I would actually do it!
The additional benefits showed up in realizing I was coming back to my tasks with a revitalized body and a refreshed brain 4 times a day too. I wasn’t “stealing” time from the company, I was actually making myself a better, more efficient worker.
The final bit is actually implementing the changes you’d like to see for yourself.
I often talk of “setting up the infrastructure” – putting those things in place that can take you out of your set routine and remind you that you were supposed to be making a change and doing something different today. Remember?
Cue the change with things like setting up pop-ups on your computer, notes in your calendar, reminder alarms in your phone, or putting up the post-it by the door – whatever is likely to work for you.
And don’t despair when it doesn’t work the first time. I spent many fruitless weeks with an intention to begin stretching at my old job before I found the right combination of resolve, cueing, and opportunity – the golden triad – before I actually got the ball rolling – literally – and my back much happier.
I was inspired to write this first installation because of an article in the New York Times, reporting some of the research on this very subject, supporting what I have found was definitely my personal experience. (Work. Walk. Work. I highly encourage you to read it.)
With that admission, I also wanted to share a personal reaction I had when the researchers talked about the concern of “fatiguing” their subjects by introducing physical activity; I laughed out loud!
I understand, and I get to hear it all the time from my clients: they believe I must be so exhausted at the end of my day. I mean, they sit around all day and they’re tired, and I’m working so hard at a physical job I must be wiped! The truth is the exact opposite is true – I’m usually pretty jazzed up at the end of a really good day. It’s not the moderate physical activity that saps your energy, it’s the lack of it. The body is most happy when we move it the way it’s designed for.