Twyla Tharp Shares the Easy, Fast Exercises That Can Transform Your Well-Being

Squirming in your seat at work and circling your shoulders are simple ways to be more active.

LMproduction / Shutterstock
LMproduction / Shutterstock

Like the dancer, you have dozens of ways to mark your day—creative, substantial ways of integrating physical activity with whatever else occupies your time. Take the stairs instead of the elevator when you’re shopping. Park in the farthest spot in the parking lot. Walk or bike to work. Practice keeping your abdominals engaged and your shoulders back during meetings. 

Many of the most forward- thinking and employee- friendly companies offer fitness programs in the workplace—yoga, cardio classes, etc. The outdoor equipment company REI offers its employees two additional vacation days each year, but only if they are used to venture outdoors. Way to go. 

Thinking of computer or desk work as one job and then exercise as another seems to me like holding two halves of a card deck in separate hands and then finding they need to be shuffled together. The more proficient the shuffle and the closer the cards cut together right hand to left, the better the deck is judged. So, too, we should think of cutting exercise in to our jobs as frequently as possible. Sitting, squirm more. Stand often to circle shoulders or pelvis. Find excuses to roam the hallways as often as possible. Go on a walk to take your phone calls. Sit less. 

Waiting for the bus, bob, bend, and weave. This is also a good time to remind yourself that we breathe. Watch your rhythm: four counts in, four counts out. Allow yourself to increase this to six counts in and six counts out several times a day. 

Learn to attach breathing to your work. Breathe in on the preparation for any physical effort and exhale on the actual activity. About to stand, take a deep breath. Exhale as you rise. All physical labor—from lifting ounces to hundreds of pounds—is best handled with this pattern to your breathing. 

At work, break to stretch often—side, back, head, neck. Subvert stasis. Get a standing desk so that you can stand at your job whenever possible—all this will help eliminate the division created when we separate exercise from our jobs. Making your job into exercise will not replace the gym, but it will help keep you alive.

Excerpted from Keep It Moving: Lessons for the Rest of Your Life by Twyla Tharp.  Copyright © 2019 by Twyla Tharp.  Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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