August 09, 2009

Calculated Inefficiency & Extravagance of Motion

I just saw the film "Cheaper by the Dozen". It wasn't the one with Steve Martin - it was the original 1950 movie about the life of Frank Gilbreath. He was the first person to study efficiency. His work became the foundation for things like time and motion studies and is responsible for a lot of the ways we do things today. His work was all about saving time. You can read more about him at Wikipedia if you like.

The man put a stopwatch to everything. In one scene he's buttoning his vest (this was in the 20's or 30's when men still wore 3-piece-suits all the time). His wife times him buttoning it both ways - from top-to-bottom and from bottom-to-top. Turns out it's quicker to button it from the bottom up. Who knew?

But I don't think Mr. Gilbreath and those who followed in his footsteps did the average human a service. Our lives are so busy these days that we're being bombarded with tips & tricks for saving time. Many of these involve what's called "economy of motion". A good example is keeping a basket on the stairs. It saves time and energy to toss things in the basket during the day, then carry it up only once. For those of us who are overweight efficiency and economy of motion can be enemies to our health.

Shouldn't those of us who are fat* practice calculated inefficiency and extravagance of motion? Most of us have become sedentary, so wouldn't it be healthier to run up and down the stairs several times a day? It shouldn't take that much longer to do it if you trot up the stairs instead of just walking them.

We've all heard the common ways to incorporate more exercise into our lives, such as take the stairs instead of the elevator, bike to work if possible and park far from entrances. Here are some other ways to practice calculated inefficiency & extravagance of motion:

  • Set up your kitchen so it's inconvenient. Make yourself have to walk across the room to get things. For example, put your drinking glasses in a cupboard away from the sink and the fridge. Put your pots & pans as far away from the stove as you can; ditto your spices (which shouldn't be near the stove anyway). It will be annoying at first but you'll get used to it. Put your most commonly used items in bottom cabinets - the bending is good for you unless you have a back problem.
  • Store your clean linens far from the baths & bedrooms.
  • When you're straightening up the house, carry only one or two things at a time to another room. Hurry when you do it.
  • Dance your way around. OK, maybe not in public, but it's your choice.
  • Don't sit when you can stand; don't stand still when you can pace; don't walk when you can trot (or dance, or run).
  • If possible, don't use a shopping cart. Instead, carry two of the little baskets they offer for smaller purchases, one in each hand. You'll have to set one of them down to put something in it and gain the benefits of bending/lifting (again, if you don't have back problems).
  • Do something physical while watching TV. March in place, do jumping jacks, sit-ups or push-ups, arm curls with cans of green beans. Ladies, do your Kegels (if you don't know what they are you should ask your OB/GYN). You won't miss your show and you'll be getting some exercise at the same time.
  • Do stretching and leg lifts while using the computer. You can find all kinds of exercises on the internet that you can do while sitting.  Here's a good one from WikiHow: 
  • Keep your tools a few more steps away than is convenient when you're working on something.

Practicing calculated inefficiency and extravagance of motion might just help you lose some weight. It will certainly make you feel better - you'll be getting more exercise. Does anyone have any other tips for practicing these techniques? I'd love to hear them.

* Yes, I said "fat". I know it's not politically correct, but because it sounds so negative I use that word to help me turn down high-calorie foods and to practice the techniques I offer above.

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