How to exercise without even knowing it
My friend Jade and I have a favourite weekday activity that is very naughty.
When everyone else is at work or school, we sneak off to the beach with a collection of trashy magazines, two cans of diet coke and our pillows.
Even if we have only two spare hours before the real world drags us back, we get in our swimmers and act like we’re on holiday. With downtime, every bit adds up.
We catch up on our news and flick through magazines while lying on beach towels, our heads resting on our pillows. (The pillows, may I say, lift the whole experience out from Economy Class and dump it firmly into Business. The pillows are amazing. You fall asleep? No worries! You haven’t crushed your head and you wake up feeling a million bucks! And there’s no imprint of the beach on your face!)
Correction: we don’t nap, I nap. Jade takes nonstop work calls while wearing her teeny weeny bikini, gritting her teeth and sending emails from her Blackberry at a furious pace. I loll around and floss my teeth and read my phone and flick through page after page of nonsense. When our bodies are warmed through from the summer sun we wade into the water and it’s at this point that I always implore Jade to come with me as I swim out to the pontoon.
“Jaaaade!” I’ll be out deep but she’ll be close to the shore, close enough to hear her phone. “Jaaaydey!” I shout. “Come out!”
She would happily just dip in and get straight back out of the water and back to her calls.
“I don’t want to swim by myself,” I cry. “I’ll get lonely! And there’s jellyfish! And seaweed! Come on, just a lap around and then we’ll get out!”
“I KNOW WHAT YOU’RE DOING!” she’ll shout as she strides into deeper water making exaggerated shivers and finally swimming in an awkward dog-paddle to avoid wetting her hair. “I know what you’re up to, Stynes! You’re making me do INCIDENTAL EXERCISE!”
Incidental exercise is my favourite form of exercise. It’s the exercise you do when you’re busy doing other more important things, like being lazy. It’s the exercise you do when you’re bludging, or working, watching TV, having fun, being naughty, etc.
The classic example of incidental exercise is taking the stairs at work instead of the elevator. Like, OF COURSE you take the stairs! The elevator smells like CEO B.O. (uh oh) and hanging out for too long in such a place can only result in the sort of small talk that’ll get you fired.
The calories you burn for taking the stairs don’t add up to going for an actual jog but it’s usually quicker than taking the lift and if there’s ever a fire in your building, you’ll be able to lead your workmates to safety with utter confidence.
For incidental exercise, aka, “Burning Fat in Daily Life”, there’s also the “Get Off A Stop Early” on the way somewhere by public transport, and the classic “Walk the Shopping Home Instead of Driving”, – (which is a great idea in theory, but rubbish if you’re feeding a family and/or buying stuff like milk and potatoes which get heavy, and make the whole endeavor quite tedious).
Dr Josephine Chau from the School of Health at the University of Sydney agrees. “People often do their half hour of exercise and then drive cars and don’t walk anywhere. We should be thinking about incidental exercise all the time – it makes a big difference with weight maintenance if people are active all day,” she says.
I think the greatest forms of incidental exercise (if you’re not sloping off for lunchtime swims) – are dancing and sex. They both involve engagement with others, joy, breathlessness, and the most wonderful kind of madness.
We should all aim for a little more dancing and sex. But if we can’t – there are other way to incidentally exercise.
TOP 5 other forms of incidental exercise (besides dancing and sex)
1. Getting in a bar fight while defending the reputation of the hot bartender.
2. Deciding to give up completely on language and communicating exclusively through interpretive dance.
3. Walking interstate to see your family for Christmas instead of taking a totally non-fat-burning aeroplane.
4. Angrily jumping up and down on the spot whenever you get put on hold to your internet service provider.
5. Fanning yourself and your loved ones with large palm leaves instead of using the air-con.
If days go by where you missed your chance to go to the gym or forgot to go for a run, at least with a bit of incidental exercise you got your heart rate up. Every bit adds up. See you at the beach!
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