Take Out The Trash Already

Trash CansEarlier this year, the social fitness network MapMyFITNESS released its Fittest of the Fit Index ratings, based on information derived from over 1.7 million active MapMyFITNESS community members in over 2,500 cities nationwide. Members logged their running, cycling, walk, gym sessions, and other calorie-burning activities to affect state and city rankings. As of April 2012, Oregon is holding strong at number eight, with members in cities such as Hood River, Corvallis, Portland, Beaverton and Lake Oswego working up a sweat to contribute to the state’s top ten ranking.  If you are reading this and wondering how you’ll manage your time today to fit in a workout and thus uphold Oregon’s fitness reputation, look no further than your garbage can.  Is it full?  If so, get off your behind and empty it right now.  Boom, you just burned some calories while taking practical measures to clean up your work space.  It is time to rethink the notion of fitness to include activities of everyday life, and to understand how cleaning your toilet counts in the grand scheme of your fitness regimen.

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) defines physical activity as ‘any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles resulting in energy expenditure above basal resting levels.  Physical activity broadly encompasses exercise, sports, and physical activities done as a part of daily living, occupation, leisure, and active transportation.’ This definition basically covers all the activities known to humankind, so even though you may have a job that requires that you sit staring at a computer screen for extended periods of time, you are still in good position to make immediate improvements to your health.  Here are a few ideas for adding more active time into your day:

Set a timer:  Use a timer to periodically remind yourself to get up and move around.  You may find this interruption annoying at first, especially if you are working on a deadline, but you will soon find that taking an activity break clears out small aches and pains that result from sitting in the same position for too long.  As you get used to taking these breaks, you will get better at listening to your body and you may rely on the timer less.

Walk an errand:  It may actually take less time for you to walk to complete an errand than it takes to drive, so be honest with yourself about the cost-effectiveness of walking versus driving.  If you absolutely cannot spare the additional fifteen minutes that walking requires, grab your car keys and go. However, when you’ve been sitting all day and driving to the post office seems ideal just because you are caught in a cycle of inactivity, admit you need the exercise and hit the pavement.

Clean up:  Take the time at least once a day to tidy up your work space.  Whether you work inside or outside your home, a neat environment sets the tone for the work that you do.  Papers strewn about, dirty countertops, and disheveled cubbies look out of order and contribute to mental stress.  Recognize that you may improve your attitude and increase your productivity if you take the time to perform a cleaning workout – move purposefully with the intention of regulating your breathing and improving posture as you squat, lunge, reach, and pull.

Stand up when you call:  If possible, stand up when you talk on the phone.  Perform a few squats and lunges and any other activity that allows you to fit in some movement while maintaining a respectful conversation.

Sit well:  Just because you are seated does not mean you are exempt from movement.  As you are sitting, breathe in your nose and out your mouth.  Look straight ahead, bring your shoulder blades back and down, pull in your navel to your spine, and soften your joints.  Allow your chest to swell as oxygen flows to every cell in your body, releasing positive energy and soothing any signs of tightness or discomfort.  If you are able to work with music as your background noise, stretch and rotate your arms and trunk rhythmically for a quick upper-body workout.

Oregonians may love their running, cycling, and weight-lifting activities, but how many of you also have clean floors and a tidy closet?  Just because you’re not ‘working out’ doesn’t mean the work that you do doesn’t count towards your daily calorie burn.  So the next time you’re wondering how to undo the damage of that lunch-time burrito but the work day is far from over, look for movement opportunities right in front of you that take little time but add up to a significant amount of activity over the course of the day.  By taking action you’re not only completing the practical tasks of everyday life, you are also improving your health and increasing your fitness level, one garbage can at a time.

About Arran Gimba