Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Retrain the brain to expect movement

I love turtles but I don't want to look like one.

Inertia: A body at rest tends to stay at rest.

Don’t I know it. Especially since my comfort zone — where I live these days — is something akin to a hypnotic state: fingers on keyboard, words sliding from brain to laptop monitor with pauses for “delete.” The only thing is motion is the fizz in my Diet Coke.

With deskwork, especially deskwork when you’re alone at home without others to enliven the atmosphere, you must resist, resist, resist this state of rest. Inertia feels good but it has unfortunate lasting effects. To slip unawares into that category fitness experts term “sedentary” is not good.

Biologist, author and ultra-marathon runner Bernd Heinrich studied metabolism in animals such as the insanely hyperactive hummingbird. He applied what he learned to his mid-life goal of running a 50-plus mile race, something he’d never done before. He substituted running for walking in his day-to-day life. Instead of walking to his car in the morning, he ran. Instead of walking to classes (he was a professor of biology in Vermont at the time), he ran. He ran into the market for milk. He ran from the garage to his house. His body’s default mode, then, became running.

Can desk-bound workers be anything other than sedentary?

I think so. Set your digital watch to go off every hour, get up, move around, lift some light weights, stretch. Good. Now you can sit down and go back to work. Also, try to join me for this 100-day “break a sweat” challenge so you work out at your own pace for 30 minutes a day, as well. And stop loving your office chair.


  1. 73 minutes on the half ice, half slush trail today. *clap clap*

  2. It's one of the dangers that comes with the job of writer -- and yes, we have to fight back! I can sit for hours without moving, but lately I, too, have been trying to remember to get up and stretch and move around when I'm working. The timer is an excellent idea.