Dee is an inspiration to me. She has cerebral palsy and is confined to a motorized wheelchair. She has only minimal use of each hand, just enough to move her chair and use a phone if it’s placed into her hand. She’s not only cognitively intact, she’s pretty smart.
I’m lucky. I worked for 33 years with people with special needs, people like Dee. It’s emotionally difficult work sometimes, but I always got more than I could ever give them. One powerful lesson they taught me was how lucky I was to be physically able-bodied.
She told me once she was fed up hearing what a nuisance people thought it was to take the stairs, walk the dog, or park farther away from your destination to get in a few extra steps. “They sit down all day long but they have a choice. I don’t. If I could walk I’d never want to sit down.”
When we think of chores, she thinks of abilities. Big wake-up call here.
Everyone Needs To Be Over 30
I speak not of years, but of minutes. Thirty minutes of physical activity for at least five days of the week is what’s recommended by the US Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. How much do we get? The feds survey this info regularly and the latest data show 1 in 4 of us get NO leisure physical activity at all. None. That’s self-reported data, and it may be higher, as people do tend to enhance the amount of physical activity they do.
Flipping the Script on Activity
Many of us cringe when we’re told to be more active. So how about baby steps? How about focusing on being less INACTIVE?
If it’s too overwhelming to go to a gym (I speak not of “joining” because that doesn’t ensure “going”) or if you have little leisure time, then it makes sense to build some activity into your day, a little bit here and there, whenever you can.
Enter the “Exercise Snack”
A food snack is something less than a meal. An exercise snack is something less than a workout. It can take many forms and be done pretty much anywhere. It doesn’t have a minimum time, it just requires moving – anyway you can, and anywhere you can. You don’t need to develop a twitch, just think of doing what some of my physically disabled patients would LOVE to do:
• Deliver it. Why email a memo to someone close by, when you can walk down the hall to speak with them? Follow-up with a memo for the record.
• Think glass, not bottle. Have one glass of water at a time, rather than brining a bottle to your desk. When you want more, you’ll get up and get it.
• DIY: Make a photocopy yourself, get the staples from the supply closet, give the home floor an extra quick vacuuming. It’ll get done your way and it’s another exercise snack.
• TV? A 30-minute sitcom only has about 22-23 minutes of actual programming. That’s about 7 minutes of time – in 2 or 3-minute intervals – for exercise snacking. Get the playing cards, charge your phone, lay out your clothes for the next day, or even fold a few clothes.
• Tidy up! Not a deep clean, just clear the coffee table, run the dishwasher, or hang that coat that’s been there since you got home.
Remember, these are exercise snacks, not workouts, so you’re done after a couple of minutes, but do them several times a day and you’re on your way top getting that 30 minutes. Better still, you’re preventing your metabolism from slowing down. Remember – it’s not about being more active – just less INACTIVE.
It’s an easier goal to achieve and these exercise snacks might lead to bigger things, like “exer-meals”. And if you need motivation, remember: Dee would happily trade places with you.
As for motivation, check this video out of a 4-year-old girl with cerebral palsy, taking her first steps by herself. You’ll cheer her on as loudly as I did. Then get up off your chair or the sofa — just because you can!