Think you have to go to the gym to stay fit and healthy? Think again.
Ellen Langer, social psychologist at Harvard, studied a group of maids who all said that they didn’t do any exercise, or go to the gym. She checked their health, and the results showed below par health. They could definitely do with some physical exercise. But when Langer told half the group that their cleaning, vacuuming, dusting and changing bed clothes met the surgeon general’s requirements for daily physical activity; the results were astonishing. Not only did they lose weight, but without changing their routine in any way, their bloodwork showed marked improvements. The control group stayed at the same weight with the same health results.
For me this shows two things – one; the power of the mind, and two; the power of simple movements. I’ll concentrate on the latter today.
A recent documentary by BBC Horizon, called “The Truth About Exercise” saw presenter Michael Mosely trying out the new high intensity exercise regime (HIT). But that’s not what caught my attention. Instead it was what obesity expert James Levine, a researcher at the Mayo Clinic told us – “the chair kills”.
Sitting down for long periods of time, or having most of your waking day spent sitting down and not moving was shown to be dangerous. And on the flip side, that small movements or fidgeting throughout the day could lead to not gaining weight and remaining fit and healthy.
This reminded me of the picture that Dan Buettner painted when he gave his TED Talk on how to stay young. He studies Blue Zones of the world – geographical areas with the highest percentages of centenarians. The study wanted to see what kept these people living into old age. He said that they didn’t do any exercise as we would know it, no stair masters or ab crunches; but instead they had to get up off of the floor, where they sat, countless times through the day. To get anywhere required long walks. They chopped, grated, peeled and cooked all by hand.
Just like the fidget study – these people moved. All day.
And it gets results. In another BBC documentary called “What’s the Right Diet for You?”, we were shown how carrying a basket in a supermarket, a short but fast walk, pacing whilst talking on the phone and taking the stairs burnt as many calories as a twenty minute full on session on an exercise bike.
What I take from all this isn’t that we should ditch any exercise programme – but that we should move more in the day regardless. As Dr, James Levine said – the body idles when it is still for a long period of time. Things slow down. The body needs to move, constantly through out the day – but it doesn’t have to be anything crazy, just small movements. Anything, besides sitting down for too long.
I think it’s great to get the blood really pumping and the heart racing on a jog or a bike ride, but it’s great to know that you are doing a lot of good for yourself just by standing up and getting out of the killer chair!
So, whenever I remember, I:
- Pace when talking on the phone.
- Stand up if having an informal conversation.
- Walk briskly when shopping and carry a basket.
- Climb stairs, instead of taking escalators or elevators.
- Use hand tools when possible.
- Park car further away from where I’m headed to.
- Get up from desk and do some yoga stretches.
- Do random home gym stuff around the house. Hanging off the stairs, lifting myself up from my seat and other monkey business.
- Press ups and pull-ups whenever and wherever I can.
Happy healthy fidgeting!