How (not) To Add Movement To Your Workday

In case you’ve missed it, the latest fitness news is that you don’t really need to work out — you see the same health benefits from adding, say, 30 minutes of extra activity to your everyday activities as you would from 30 minutes of concentrated exercise. Maybe. I read the article really quickly, so that might be very wrong.

I’ve also heard that, in studies of how why skinny people are skinny, they’ve found that naturally slim people move more, fidget more, tap their feet more, and thus are probably way more annoying to have seated next to you in a library or theatre than the general population.

This made a lot of sense to me. Although I eat probably every two or three hours, I’m a pretty small person. I also never stop moving, to the extent that I keep my office door closed because I move so much that people passing by my door wonder what I’m up to. I’ve already gotten up twice as I’ve written these three paragraphs, and I just noticed that I’ve been wiggling an ankle this whole time.

In case you want to try this no-exercise exercise, here is how I go about my workday.

1) Arrive at work. Take the stairs to your seventh-floor office, because of “health benefits.” The health benefit you have in mind is avoiding small talk in the elevator, but nobody needs to know that. I’ve found that in the working world, appropriate elevator conversation is “days of the week,” “the weather,” and “upcoming holidays.” These same topics are covered more in-depth, and with more interest, in any preschool circle time. And they say nursery school doesn’t help prepare kids for life….

2) Get to your office and take off your outdoor stuff. For me, five months out of the year that involves tugging off my boots and changing into whichever flats or moccasins I’ve kept in my office. Taking off your boots standing up is a lot of work and, if there’s enough leaning or twisting is involved, it’s probably definitely doing something to your abs. Make note to buy bigger boots at some point. By the way, shopping is also good fake exercise.

3) Turn on computer (just kidding! Turn it off of standby mode. So sorry, environment!). Wait forever for Outlook to load, but don’t sit down because you won’t be there long.

4) Scroll through email while stretching a little, because it’s early and you’re tired.

5) Grab coffee mug and water bottle, and head down the hall to get tea and water. Note that this is an extra trip compared to just going to the kitchenette straight away. You do it because you love exercise, though.

Almost had you there, right? You make the extra trip because you have to read your email before you see anybody, lest there’s something important in there they ask you about. I should probably let you know that you’re about 10 minutes late this morning, so that’s why.

6) Wait to access the water cooler, and maybe clean the counters or something as you wait. Have the conversation that you tried to avoid in the elevator. Why don’t we just add circle time into the mornings to get this all out of our system? Today is Monday and the weather is Cloudy.

7) Walk very carefully back to your office. So much balance! God, this is pretty much pilates. You’re like one of those milkmaids with the buckets over their shoulders, you’re balancing so well right now. I bet they were in GREAT shape, right?

8) Do real work now. This involves going back and forth from your desk to bookshelf to computer about fifteen times. The rest of the time, you have to fidget a bunch.

9) Start typing an email to a coworker, and realize that it’s taking longer than just walking down to ask them. So, walk down to ask them. Bam. Exercise.

10) Do some fidgety work again.

11) You have consumed 24 fluid ounces of water/ tea and have to pee. Okay, this one really is intentional exercise: I use the stairs and go to the first or second floor bathroom. The way I see it, they say to take a break from your work every once in a while to regain focus, and you have to take your eyes off of your computer screen for a few minutes so that you don’t ruin your vision. Stairs are pretty good exercise, so if your building has more than a few floors, I really do recommend going up and down them several times a day.

12) Get back to your office and do some more work. Continually lean in to or away from your screen. I have glasses for distance, and I’m always a little too close to my screen to need them, but a little too far to see perfectly. Also when I am thinking hard about something, sometimes I either have to look at it closer or stand up and walk around a bit to sort it out. I’m a writer/editor/technically lawyer, so your mileage may vary based on your line of work. But if you do something arduous like coal mining, or active like nursing or teaching, you probably don’t need to be here, right?

13) Ooops! You have a meeting in one minute. This is what you get for ignoring the fifteen-minute warning from Outlook. Sprint to the meeting room. Intervals! Cardio! Panic!

14) You’re the last person there, and no chairs are left, so you stand. Standing is awesome! I wish I had a standing desk. Or a treadmill desk. But if you have enough money for those, you probably don’t NEED to work.

15) Repeat the get water/tea – walk to the first floor bathroom song and dance a bunch of times.

16) Every two to three hours, go to the fridge to access your lunch. You need to go get snacks all the time because it is exercise and you are a fit, active individual! Right? Or maybe you’re just always hungry.

17) Notice a fantastic run in your stocking. It’s your lunch (half) hour, so walk to a nearby store to try to sort that mess out. For me, that would be Rainbow, which sells clothes for teens. Wander the store for a bit (EXERCISE!). Realize that all of the fashions are too teen for you.

18) Walk to world’s worst Family Dollar, which is not actually a dollar store. It’s just that families are allowed to shop there, and all items are sold in dollar-and-cent denominations. For instance, the tights you track down are $3.79. Jostle for a spot in the line (FITNESS!) because everyone is very rude. It is like a convenience store staffed and patronized entirely by dementors. Just joyless.

19) Book it back to your office – take the stairs (ELEVATOR TALK!).

20) Realize that you have eaten your entire lunch, but haven’t actually had lunch properly yet. The cafeteria is still open for another 10 minutes! Run down four flights to buy some almonds or something, then back up because you really need to get to work.

21) Do some fidgety work for several more hours. Switch to a good Pandora station, and rock out a little in your chair. Resist the urge to sing along.

22) Race down to your bus, which includes running the length of a city block. Watch it pull from the curb. After verifying that it was two minutes early – those jerks! – make a game plan. You can either walk a block to catch a different bus in ten minutes (but there are a ton of unruly teens on it, probably wearing clothes from Rainbow) or go back to your office and wait an hour for this bus to come again (but then you’re working for another hour). Either way, you are moving. You definitely don’t have to go to the gym tonight, because look how much you’ve moved today! Practically an Olympian, I swear.

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