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Exercise for free

Posted Dec 09 2008 11:06pm

I find that the more active I am, the more exercise I get and the less my back aches.

Unfortunately I lead a relatively sedentary life. I have a job that means I'm behind a desk most days, and the nature of building a website such as this means that I'm sitting on a chair, typing at a keyboard. (I'm looking forward to the day when we have Minority Report -style computers that require lots of waving your arms around to operate. I'll get lots more exercise then!)

Unfortunately (again) I don't really enjoy exercise for exercise's sake. I went to a gym for a while, but I got bored with it. I'm afraid that exercise just doesn't hold my attention span - which is a shame given that it's so good for me.

However, I have found a few sneaky ways of making sure that I'm not completely sedentary. None of this is rocket science, and none of it is particularly demanding - it's just making me a little more active than I normally would be. And I feel better for doing it!

  • Washing the car. I hate washing our cars. I'm not really a car person anyway, so I tend to do it under sufference. And while it's so tempting to take it to a car wash, I've taken to washing the cars by hand and getting a bit of exercise at the same time.
  • Walking into town. When I lived in Leeds, I used to walk into the city centre on a Saturday morning. I could have driven and parked, but it was a nice walk (along the canal) and it only took me an hour or so. I'd catch the bus back. I don't live in Leeds anymore, but where possible I'd rather walk somewhere and catch the bus back rather then take the car.
  • Parking. I have gotten into the habit of parking further away than I need to - particularly at the office and supermarkets. It takes me no longer than parking close to the doors, and the extra steps feel good. (Incidentally, I remember hearing a few years back about a study that showed that you could save something like 12 seconds if, when going to the supermarket, you parked in the first available space rather than search for a parking place closer to the entrance.)
  • Gardening. In our household we've divided up the garden tasks quite evenly. E gets general planting, pruning, weeding and tending the raised vegetable beds. I get the lawn, the hedge and the compost heap to look after. That means my garden tasks tend to involve lots of bending, twisting and stretching - and that suits me just fine.
  • Raking leaves. I've separated this out from gardening as I've found raking leaves from the lawn to be particularly beneficial for my back. We get a lot of leaves (our garden has seven large trees in it) and so I seem to spend an awful lot of time in October and November raking leaves. And don't talk to me about conkers...
  • Kingfishers. There are kingfishers on the river that runs through our village, and one of the things that I like to do on a morning is walk down and try to spot them. (I'm not very good at it - they're quite shy and I usually have to get up pretty early to see them.) But the walk takes me about 4,000 steps and is a great start to any day - even if I don't see a kingsfisher.
  • Phonecalls and emails. If I need to talk to someone in the same office, I prefer to get up away from my desk and go and see them. Yes, I could email or phone them, but it's good to get up and away from my desk every now and again.

Pete Egoscue, in Pain Free at your PC, has some other tips. He recommends changing your computer chair on a regular basis so that you're not always sitting in the same posture. He also suggests moving your wastepaper basket so that it's not always in the same place.

You've probably noticed that "Using labour-saving devices" isn't on this list. Well, that's the point, isn't it? I'm not trying to labour-save at all - I'm trying to labour-spend!

The other point about most of these is that they are generally low-cost and have a low environmental impact. So not only am I helping my back but I'm also saving money and reducing my impact on the environment. Hurrah!

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