Worth Your Weight

November 24, 2007

In praise of the two-minute walk

Filed under: fat acceptance — worthyourweight @ 4:16 am

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I must thank Glenn Gaesser’s Big Fat Lies for the idea of the two-minute walk. The book is an older one, but has a lot of goodies IMO.

Why two minutes? I got the idea from Dr. Steven Blair, Director of Research at the Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research in Dallas [and] one of the world’s foremost researchers on the health benefits of exercise […] Dr. Blair suggests a two-minute walk as a great way to get started, particularly for the inertia-afflicted who protest “I just don’t have the time or energy.” Everyone has two minutes to spare, and everyone has enough energy for a two-minute walk.

So do it. Then think about how you can incorporate several two-minute walks into your day — just by making simple changes in your routine […] Pretty soon the minutes start adding up, until you’ve got twenty minutes or so per day, for a total of at least 140 minutes a week.

Gaesser is careful to point out that this practice is great for metabolic fitness. It’s not necessarily meant for cardio-respiratory fitness or strengthening. He suggests working on those (as well as stretching) in other ways. He’s also wonderful about not overwhelming you with advice on what you “should do.” He makes suggestions and emphasizes that any steps towards a healthier you are beneficial. I found that approach very quieting to my perfectionist tendencies when it comes to eating and exercise.

Still, I usually prefer a more “cardio” approach to my physical activity. I started belly dancing this year, and I just beyond love it. (After reading about a pro-fat Arab culture in Fat: The Anthropology of an Obsession and seeing many fat women take to belly dance like nobody’s business, I have to wonder if we weren’t all fat belly dancing superstars generations ago in northern Africa.) I also enjoy certain types of aerobics. No, really. Man, it’s just a revelation that I even enjoy exercise, and I don’t think that would have happened without being introduced to the concept of HAES (health at every size).

The two-minute walk approach is great because I literally have no excuse for not moving my body every day. And it feels good to move my body. There are days when I’m really pressed for time and can’t set aside 35 or 40 minutes for belly dance or aerobics. If I skip that day, I might not feel my best. Of course, there are days when rest is just what the body ordered, but more often than not, I feel better getting movement in every day. The two-minute walks allow me to do that even when my schedule is closing in on me.

If I’m not feeling 100 percent, again two-minute walks to the rescue. They’re just too easy. No equipment needed. If I’m just kind of having a blah day and don’t feel like changing into my tennis shoes and exercise clothes, I don’t have to do that. It’s strictly come as you are. Whatever I’m wearing, I get my two minutes in here and there, and it usually improves my day and how I’m feeling. I’m a big fan of exercise for its mood-lifting and sleep-improving qualities.

I also try to incorporate higher intensity intervals just to mix it up. Normally at least one of my two-minute walks will be up and down stairs for the duration. Here’s where the walks become more of a traditional cardio workout. One of my goals is to do all ten of my two-minute walks up and down stairs.

It’s such a shame how physical activity has been and continues to be ruined for fat people. I see this happening in two ways. First of all, tying exercise up with weight loss makes it drudgery. Not only that, it’s difficult to sustain when weight loss is one’s goal and that goal is an elusive one. See the New York magazine article “Does Exercise Really Make Us Thinner?” for a brief history on how exercise and weight loss got mangled together.

The other way that exercise is stolen from fat people is fairly obvious. They just aren’t allowed to play. My little cousin who’s turning 10 next month wanted to join the neighborhood football team (American football, not soccer). The coach told his mom that he’s too heavy to play. That is just all kinds of frakked up. We’re actually discouraged from moving and working our bodies for fun. We are encouraged to do so in order to lose weight, but I just view that as a different form of discouragement because exercise for weight loss is not sustainable or enjoyable physical activity. Unlike fat itself, sedentariness is unhealthy … at any size.

My New Year’s resolution was to exercise at least four times a week. Switching my focus to HAES early in the year (thanks to finally reading The Obesity Myth) enabled me to stick with this resolution in a way I never have before. For starters, it was unintended but lucky that my resolution wasn’t “lose 50 pounds.” It was almost an unconscious first step toward HAES to make my resolution regarding my body one that was independent of anything but the activity itself.

Let me just say that this has been one of my most successful resolutions. It hasn’t been perfect: there was a month when I had to refrain from exercise because of an old back injury. Before, when the focus was weight loss and the attendant attitude seemed to be perfection or else, a month off would have derailed everything. I would have given up. And then not seeing the numbers on the scale or measuring tape go down? Forget it. I’d have been done with exercising until my next weight loss attempt.

Now, with this new outlook, I was back to my four or more times a week of physical activity when I felt able to resume — when my back felt better. I see this as amazing progress in so many ways. I’ve consistently exercised 10 out of the past 11 months. This is the most amount of consecutive physical activity I’ve ever gotten in my life. Even when I was “successfully” losing weight decades ago, I had only exercised for four months straight. I’ve now beaten that. In your face, weight loss exercising.

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8 Comments

  1. It’s such a shame how physical activity has been and continues to be ruined for fat people.

    You are SO right. A lot of us – myself included until just recently – view exercise as a means to an end. It’s almost as if we’re brainwashed to think that we can only exercise if we’re on a mission to lose weight. No other reasons are good enough reasons, at least not for fat people.

    Like you, I’ve begun to realize that I actually LIKE exercise. Who knew? ;) I’ve begun bellydancing (at home) and walking more, and like you said, it feels GOOD to move this body of mine! I’m nowhere near where you’re at (I only heard of HAES about a month and a half ago), but I’m noticing a lot of the same things you’ve mentioned.

    It’s a wonderful feeling. :D

    Comment by nuckingfutz — November 24, 2007 @ 7:29 am

  2. I had the same reaction to reading The Obesity Myth! I started exercising again for the joy of it and for the physical and mental benefits. I am enjoying it so much more, and sticking to it much more faithfully than when I was doing it to lose weight.

    I am also interested in the 2-minute walk concept. I’ve done the 15-minute walk thing that I got from a depression site: walk out the door, walk away for 7.5 minutes, then turn back. Voila, 15 minutes! But that fact is, I never did it often. Perhaps one day if I get really stuck I can do the 2-minute walk thing. I’m a big fan of breaking things down into manageable components. It’s a good tool to have in one’s arsenal, thanks.

    Comment by art3mis — November 24, 2007 @ 11:42 am

  3. I’ve had success doing the “walk once a day at a specific time” thing, with no distance required. Every day at 3PM, I put on some decent shoes and go out the door. If it’s raining/it’s cold/I don’t feel well/I don’t feel like walking/general wahhhh, I still have to walk. Trick is, it can be any distance I feel like. If all I can stand to do is walk around the block once, fine – that counts. If I end up deciding to go a block further, that’s OK too. A couple of miles because the weather’s nice – it’s all good.

    If I set a minimum distance or time, I tend to skip the walk when I don’t feel like it and tell myself I’ll make it up tomorrow by walking twice as far. Which rarely happens, and then I feel like I have to walk THREE times as long, which makes the whole thing a huge guilt-inducing burden and ends up with not exercising at all. The any-distance-but-must-go-outside-at-3 thing really helped me short-circuit that.

    That, and fitness goals that aren’t weight-related (and don’t necessarily have a date attached) – like “balancing on one foot for a least a minute without any frantic wobbling” or “walking fast for two miles without feeling tired at the end” or “curling 20 pounds”. Things I know I can do, unlike “weigh 120 pounds and look just like a supermodel!!!” or “weigh little enough that the doctor won’t give me The Lecture in lieu of treatment” (which I’m starting to think isn’t achievable even in theory, I’ve heard so many stories of thin anorexic women still getting The Lecture).

    I think the key is if you have goals, make them achievable. The goal of “lose N pounds” is so tenuously related to anything you actually do that it’s demoralizing and makes you likely to quit, the opposite of what a goal ought to be.

    Comment by jaed — November 24, 2007 @ 1:48 pm

  4. Wow, 10 out of 11 months! That’s awesome. I think I would rather see people moving that frequently and consistently than losing weight at all–that’s how strongly I feel that movement affects health in a positive way. Hell, if I had to, I would recommend that an otherwise sedate person walk down to the corner minimart and back so they could pick up ho-hos or Pringles. :) And isn’t belly-dancing the shit? It’s one of the few things I feel I can do well naturally…yep, I think we were all uber-shimmiers a few centuries ago.

    Comment by Phledge — November 24, 2007 @ 3:34 pm

  5. the two minute walk thing sounds fantastic – and i wholeheartedly agree with it making you feel good. If i dont move around I only end up feeling sluggish and slow, even ill. getting out and doing something as little as walking can turn that feeling into ‘actually, i feel quite energised!’

    Also, i wanted to say a big BIG thankyou for jogging my memory about ‘Fat: The Anthropology Of An Obsession’, ive been looking for a book like that for weeks now (for my dissertation) and lo and behold, i’d put it on my amazon wishlist a long while ago!! so now im buying it. :)

    Comment by apricotmuffins — November 24, 2007 @ 5:06 pm

  6. nuckingfutz, thanks for your comment. The positive reinforcement feels awesome, doesn’t it?

    art3mis, I like the 15-minute walk you mentioned, too. Options really help.

    jaed, I love your idea of “‘walk once a day at a specific time’ thing, with no distance required” as well as your non-weight-related fitness goals. Thanks for sharing them!

    Phledge, your comment tickled me to no end ^_^

    apricotmuffins, I’d love to hear what you think of the Fat anthropology book. It wasn’t what I expected, but still learned some new stuff that was worthwhile.

    Comment by worthyourweight — December 1, 2007 @ 9:49 pm

  7. very interesting.
    i’m adding in RSS Reader

    Comment by music — January 9, 2008 @ 4:40 am

  8. Oh, wonderful!
    We expect more and more interesting and useful posts as same from you! :)
    My compliments!

    Comment by Lawaget — February 25, 2008 @ 4:23 pm


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