September 15th, 2011

View from study (sunny)

Exercising in a tiny space

I've already written a couple of posts about my attempts to get more movement into my working day. Since being made redundant from my teaching job three years ago, I have been working part-time tutoring online from home, so a lot of the usual suggestions such as "take the stairs instead of the lift" or "get off the bus/train/tube a stop early and walk the rest of the way into work" just do not apply to someone who works in a tiny spare bedroom in a tiny house and whose commute simply involves a 3 metre walk from bed to desk.

For some tasks I now use the laptop on the improvised standing desk. This encourages me to move a little as I work, but for some things, including Internet, I have to use the desktop.

It may actually be possible to improvise some way of raising the keyboard and monitor on my desk so I can stand at it, but at the moment the in-tray is behind the monitor and so there isn't room. I am planning to do some rearranging in my study, but that's not likely to happen for a few weeks at least, so I went down a different route.

What I bought:

A mini exercise bike like this. This seems to be basically the same model on sale in the US under a different brand. The only difference being that mine has straps on the pedals to stop the feet slipping.

A mini stepper like this one. Here is something similar available in the US.

A hula hoop

Total cost, just under £100. Together they gave me three ways of exercising in very little space. Collapse )

I decided to try a totally different approach using mini-exercise sessions of just 5 minutes duration with the goal of doing at least 6 per day.

So far it's working beautifully. I've been doing it for 2½ weeks (with a grid on a sheet of paper to record how much I do) and most days I've managed the 30 minutes of exercise without any difficulty. This week I have upped the length of the sessions to 7½ minutes and after two weeks at that level, I will increase again to 10 minutes per session, still with the goal of doing 30-60 minutes of exercise in the comfort of my own home. If I go for a walk or a cycle ride, that will be in addition. I have no intention of increasing beyond 10 minutes per session on the mini-biking and stepping, though I may with the hooping because that is proving addictive. :)

Overall, my strategy has worked. I already feel better, have more energy and have lost 2lbs! I haven't made any deliberate alterations to my diet, but counter-intuitively, I feel less hungry than when I slumped at the computer all day. What is more, when I do feel hungry, it's a proper tummy-rumbly kind of hunger, not the fuzzy-brain low blood sugar thing.

After doing this for about a week and already beginning to feel the results, I thought I'd look to see if anyone had done any research on exercising in short bursts rather than one long session per day. There wasn't all that much, but this paper seemed to be the one that fitted my situation best and the scientific research indicates that multiple short sessions are just as good as one long session, which fits my albeit limited personal experiment.

In terms of motivation, I'm finding it much easier to set a timer for 5, 7½ or 10 minutes and just do a short spontaneous session of pedalling or hooping at a convenient moment. Because I'm not working at high intensity for long periods, I don't get hot and sweaty, so changing clothes isn't required, beyond taking off and putting back on a layer when I do a session of hooping. It no longer matters what the weather is doing, so I don't spend the day waiting for it to stop raining, only to find that it never does and yet another day has gone by without exercising.

So my preliminary conclusions are:

1) If you have an otherwise sedentary lifestyle, adding some very short exercise sessions to your daily routine is beneficial. You do not need to set aside a whole hour at once.

2) A mini-bike is an excellent way of getting some movement into your day if you spend a lot of time sitting at a computer. They are so portable that I see no reason why you couldn't even take one in to the office if you work away from home. I'm not claiming that mini-biking will make you fit, but it provides enough movement for health and to improve blood circulation in the legs. I now combine cycling with arm waving exercises for a more complete work out. A mini-bike is cheap and as long as you don't hammer it -- remember, they're not intended for people who fancy themselves riding in the Tour de France! -- they seem durable enough. The "computer" on mine died after about a week, but I wasn't using it anyway. I just set a timer and pedal until it beeps.

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[LiveJournal is occasionally a bit wobbly so this was posted to Dreamwidth and then crossposted to LJ. If you want to leave a comment, please use whichever site you find most convenient. Comments so far: comment count unavailable.]