Now that's it's 2010, I'm looking back on those calorie-burning fitness tricks we found so ground-breaking a decade ago: Get off the bus a stop earlier. Park your car further away at the mall. Get up and change the TV channel. Wash the dishes instead of putting them in the dishwasher. Walk up a flight of stairs instead of riding the elevator.
But I think these are a little worn and we're in need of some new stay-in-shape strategies. And I've found a few. I've also found that keeping fit doesn't just benefit one's waistline, but also companies' bottom line.
Admittedly, I've had a little fun with some of these, but there is power in the seed of truth they carry.
See Yourself & Cut Fat
I read about this experiment in a fascinating little book called 59 Seconds: Think a Little, Change a Lot. Two researchers at Iowa State University, Stacey Sentyrz and Brad Bushman, conducted an experiment where almost 1,000 shoppers in a supermarket were presented with two new margarine spreads. One was full-fat, the other no-fat. Half the time the shoppers were asked which margarine they would like to sample, a mirror was strategically placed behind the spreads so that the participants could see their reflection. The other half of the time the mirror was not there. When the mirror was present, there was a 32 percent reduction in people choosing the full-fat margarine.
Seeing our reflection makes us more aware of our body. So wouldn't placing a mirror in your kitchen help you make healthier choices? It seems so logical to me I wonder why no company has rushed to market with the "Perfect You-Perfect Body" full-length kitchen mirror. For urban kitchens, it would come in yuppie stainless steel. For more rural environs, a country wooden frame. I'm betting it would be more effective than that three inch picture stuck up on your refrigerator of how you want to look, by now covered by little Jimmy's school picture and the annual soccer schedule.
Standing While Working
The standing desk got a little press a while ago as a better way to work, giving your body more of a work-out while you're actually, not. Apparently Donald Rumsfield uses it. Politics aside, you use more muscle and burn more calories standing than sitting.
Just the other day I was on the subway in Manhattan and a young man seeing the surgical shoe I'm sporting for a minor foot injury, jumped up to give me his seat. I thanked him, but actually my foot wasn't hurting so I politely declined. After he sat back down I also thought, 'Yes! Standing burns more calories than sitting!'
Given that, offices could conduct meetings with everyone at a standing desk. It probably would cut meeting times in half. That's wouldn't be bad either. Of course you'd also have to drag your standing desk to the meeting - an extra calorie burn there.
Standing and Walking While Working How amazing is this? Standing and walking and working! It's my dream come true. If only someone would be there when I finish three miles with a cappuccino and a slice of tiramisu.
But what if doctors had treadmills in their offices? Every time you go to the doctor, except the part where he or she really has to examine you, you could walk on the treadmill while discussing your vitals. There's a little five or 10-minute tune up right there. In fact, it wouldn't be bad if doctors were walking alongside you on a treadmill. I know a lot of doctors who could use it.
For the timeless staple, I can't deny the advantages of walking. Not only does it burn calories but it improves circulation, strengthens bones, having diabetes it maximizes my insulin-sensitivity, and it offers more mental clarity. When I'm searching for inspiration or to work out a problem, I take a walk. My daily one-hour power-walk spurs a constant stream of new thoughts. Tons more than being in a 700 square foot apartment with too much furniture.
Companies Invested In Energy-Renewal
Some companies have realized the value in keeping their employees fit. They've seen that subsidizing gym memberships, having managers gather employees for midday workouts, providing healthy foods in the company cafeteria and encouraging employees to take regular breaks away from their desk at 90 to 120 minute intervals allows for more sustainable performance.
As reported in the Harvard Business Review, "Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time," organizations like Ernst & Young, Sony, Nokia, Ford, Mastercard and Wachovia Bank have learned that having employees put in more hours to meet ever-increasing demands only exhausts their workforce, leading them to poop out faster, disengage and get sick.
Because time is a limited resource, longer days are not a solution. But personal energy is now being regarded as a renewable resource. Helping their employees keep fit and better store and recharge their energy, has led workers to be more physically energetic, more focused, able to recover faster from energy drains, able to maintain and restore positive emotions and outperform their under-energized peers.
So I think I'll just go for a walk and see if I can't find a store that sells that treadmill desk. Typing while I'm moving will burn extra calories. I only hope the energy surge I feel from managing to choreograph writing while standing and walking doesn't cause a black out in Brooklyn.