Fitness Tips for Chair-Bound Computer Users

When Jeffrey Spencer prepared for his college exams, he would tape his notes to the handlebars of his bike and ride to school, studying all the while.

To him, it made perfect sense. “I am a kinetic learner, which means I learn and mentally perform best when I am moving,” he told LinuxInsider.

To visual or auditory learners, Spencer’s study habits may only make sense in context: He was a competing member of the United States Olympic cycling team in the 1972 Games in Munich. He later turned pro. Recently, he published a book, Turn it Up! How to Perform at Your Highest Level for a Lifetime, which he wrote while riding a stationary bike.

Even to people who learn or reason best by reading or listening, Spencer’s basic premise is absolutely correct: People do perform better when fit, and some even think better when their bodies are in motion.

“Being out of shape means that you cannot respond at your best when an opportunity or challenge comes your way,” he says.

Unfortunately for many of us, this physiological fact bumps straight up against the reality of days spent largely at a desk.

However, all is not lost. It may not be possible to exercise for a full hour, as many doctors recommend, during a typical workday — but it is possible to squeeze in some beneficial activity.

Take a Break From Work

Get up and move every 30 to 45 minutes or so, advises Debbie Mandel, a stress management expert and author of Addicted to Stress.

“Take a walk around the office; do calf raises, wall-pushups, chair squats to get the blood pumping,” she told LinuxInsider.

Then, at lunchtime, eat only half of what you brought and take a brief walk, Mandel suggests.

No time for a walk? “We recommend ‘chairobics’ — exercises performed while seated,” Amanda Freeman, cofounder of Vital Juice Daily, told LinuxInsider.

Basic Equipment

People can stay fit using low-tech exercise equipment, Dr. Melina Jampolis, nutrition advisor for Elements for Women and author of The No Time to Lose Diet, told LinuxInsider.

“Bring exercise bands to work — these are easy to use and require no extra space,” she recommends.

Another option is an exercise ball; even just sitting on it works core muscles. Small hand weights can be hidden under the desk, notes Jampolis, and used to work one body part — say, biceps, triceps or shoulders — for five minutes a day.

“If you have a private office, take off your shoes and skip rope for five minutes to torch calories,” she advises, “or take the jump rope to the stairway landing if your office is too small.”

IT Assistance

A number of infotech gadgets, videos and programs are available for deskbound workers who wish to squeeze in some exercise.

Freeman likes the FLOW system, for example, which offers a video of five-minute chair exercises that work all of the muscle groups.

Even typical office electronics can be used for fitness goals, says Sarah Lowe, a certified fitness trainer in Atlanta. “Get a wireless headset that allows you to walk around as you make phone calls,” she told LinuxInsider.

High-End Investments

For people serious about both work and fitness, an investment in the latest exercise equipment for the office may be in order. The Treadmill Desk combines a conventional treadmill with a work station.

People can trod along at one mile per hour and still lose weight if they do it consistently throughout the day, according to James Levine of the Mayo Clinic, who came up with the idea.

Or, work out on a Geek-a-Cycle, a combination recumbent bike and computer desk.

“The Geek-a-Cycle is a bit more manageable than the treadmill workstation,” says Lowe.

If an office cycle or treadmill is beyond your — or your employer’s — budget, Jampolis points out that “you don’t need equipment to squeeze in more exercise. Stand while talking on the phone — that burns almost twice the calories of sitting; skip instant messaging and get up to give a colleague a message, and always take the stairs for less than five flights.”

The most important part of any successful program is planning, she continues. “Research local workout options, walking routes, healthy restaurants.”

Also, keep in mind office events, which have proven to be the downfall of many a determined dieter. “Make sure that you find out what they are serving at staff meetings, so you can plan ahead to bring your own,” Jampolis says. “Better yet, suggest a healthier option for the whole office.”

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