Plié While You Read This (Exercise At The Office)

Elephant Plié at Desk

Stand Up While You Read This! is the title of an alarming (if not completely surprising) article by Olivia Judson in this week’s New York Times. Judson discusses new studies that show that sitting for long periods every day contributes to obesity (and a bunch of attendant illnesses) not only because sitting, such a passive activity, doesn’t burn many calories but because it actively changes the body’s metabolism.

What’s worse is that many of the negative aspects of sitting are not countered by regular exercise;  one hour of exercise just can’t do battle against hours of lumpishness.

The trick apparently is to break up those lumpy hours, to stand up more–while on the phone, while on the computer.  Standing up at the computer seems at bit hard to me, but some people advocate standing desks with slow moving treadmills beneath them;  others exchange office chairs for those big bright blue therapy balls.   (Oh yes!  I can see sitting on a therapy ball going over very well at my office!)

I don’t think my employer would pay for a slow treadmill either.  (Generally, employers, outside of factories, only go for metaphorical treadmills.)

So what is a worker with a sedentary job (let’s say, in an office) to do?    Some suggestions:

1.  Plié.  You know, deep knee bends, like a ballet dancer.   During those phone calls that you remember to stand up for.  But also, while washing your hands at the lavatory sink, while waiting for the copy machine or coffee machine or elevator.  While in the elevator. It’s low-tech, stationary, and, if you don’t add in arm gestures and are not wearing a short skirt, may not even be very noticeable.  (You may want to stick to demi-pliés and not the full bore ones.)

2.  Continuing in the dance mode, sashay!  Sashaying is a slightly twisting, slightly waltzy, sidestep, with arms extended. Sashaying will get your blood flowing, make you feel terrific (an aura of Fred Astaire almost instantly descends), and also get you to your destination faster.  While it is, theoretically, a graceful maneuver, you may want to save it for those moments when alone in office corridors, or for the stretches of space between open doors.   If you don’t have enough rhythm for a good sashay, pretend you work for the Ministry of Silly Walks.

3.  Take advantage of whatever privacy finds your way.  You have a moment in the Ladies’ Room—try to squeeze in twenty jumping jacks.  (Your heart will not only race from the exercise but from the fear of discovery.)

4.  Make your chair your friend rather than enemy.  Squat.  (Be careful if your chair has wheels.)  I haven’t seen any studies on this, but squatting’s got to be better than sitting.  (Non-obese people squat all over the world.)  Admittedly, squatting is a bit hard on knees that have been doing a lot of pliés.

If you can’t squat, try sitting cross-legged.  (How many obese meditators have you seen?)

Use your armrests for dips.   Try to keep the weight balanced so your chair doesn’t fall over.   (Work on curls while picking up the chair.)

5.  Use your arms too, extend, wiggle. Yes, it’s a little distracting to do arm exercises while talking on the phone or while looking at a computer screen, but it’s a lot less distracting than talking on the phone WHILE looking at a computer screen.  (You know those long distracted silences.  Sometimes they are even your long distracted silences.)

The great thing about all these techniques is that they will burn calories, reduce your chances of sitter’s metabolism, and also, by raising your silliness level, give a lift to both energy and spirits.  Your co-workers, at least, should have a good laugh.

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3 Comments on “Plié While You Read This (Exercise At The Office)”

  1. Sian Says:

    At the risk of taking someone’s blog seriously and looking like a rube who lives on, and almost under many wave-crashed rocks, I’m sending you another suggestion. You could also replace your chair with a ball – one of those big bouncy air-filled exercise versions that waft plastic smells around. They require your muscles to work in tiny movements all day long to maintain stability. You will look silly – a princess on a pea – and come only in silly colours but the workaholics I know (film/video editors) swear by them. I guarantee everyone for miles around will come to visit – to my mind an embarrassment preferable to that of being caught in a plie.
    But more poems Karin – you’re a wonderful poet!

    • manicddaily Says:

      Dear Sian,

      Seems like it would be awfully hard to squat on a big bouncy ball. Though I’ll certainly think about it.

      Thanks much for the compliment re poems. I have a lot on already (under ‘poetry’) but will keep that in mind. I’m hoping to publish a book soon (which I’m sure I will tell everyone about-that and the exercise balls.)


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