I experience much discontent with the notion of immobility. I dedicated years to on and off work/experimentation/hobby in applied (and some theoretical) computer science, mathematics, open source technologies, digital electronics, literature, and foreign languages, all of which carry certain sedentary implications. Yet in spite of that, I imagine myself more as an element of mobility and field endurance, or maybe a ninja or a mercenary, who simply practices the aforementioned areas. This aspect hasn’t varied much over 15-20 years, and the strong visual severely facilitates the maintaining of a balance.
Here I wish to survey certain developments that could ease the burden imposed by lack of mobility. I’m not strictly referring to exercise habits, but methods rather to cultivate movement in a more organic fashion.
Over the course of several years I worked in a standing environment in various settings. Initially I simply stacked two or three columns of books on the desk to a height sufficient to accommodate a keyboard and a mouse. I applied a similar measure with the computer monitor by means of stacks of printer paper. Since I kept few books on my desk, I recall having stolen (borrowed) some from the ‘office library’ in addition to the printer paper. This was shortly before adapting an entirely minimalist approach of emptying the desk of anything beyond the immediately essential instruments (which, by the way, simplifies the psychological initiative to leave the office setting.) I digress.
I improvised the above in one office space, and stacked boxes in another when I couldn’t find enough books to steal. I also placed an unused file cabinet (for which I saw no other purpose) on the desk to elevate the monitor. The last environment I worked in, however, employed a handful of standing stations with a sliding desk surface and monitor mount. This setup probably cost a fortune.
This became my preferred setup for years, and I would stand, annoyingly pace around, or sit on an exercise ball that I used in lieu of a chair in those moments of concentrated thought or exhaustion. I had also made an effort to emulate a similar environment in certain apartments I occupied.
The setup is effective if constrained to a constant work environment or office space. In the event of a more volatile/mobile work nature, the prospect of a standing environment increases in difficulty. The effectiveness of the setup is also largely confined to your personal movement patterns. Maintaining your body as rigid as Michelangelo’s David for overextended time periods can arguably provoke consequences even more severe than a traditional sedentary pose.
I enjoy decomposing not only activities but ideas into minimal basic if not independent components. A respectable part of computer work, at least mine, involves three: thinking, producing words, and transferring those words onto a computing device. Nothing in the components strictly speaking imposes physical immobility, compared to a piano, for example, which demands stillness, concentration, and execution simultaneously.
Regretfully, the components have become intertwined with sitting on a chair in front of a monitor and a conventional keyboard. Careful mechanism redesign, however, can not only restore the independence but cultivate more physical movement.
I long contemplated an apparel with the effectiveness of a full keyboard yet not inhibiting in physical mobility. Something I can wield in motion is ideal and more effective even than a standing environment that still demands your body to be still while interacting with the keyboard/mouse. Something more elemental. Something of a natural extension to a human body.
A one-handed aerial keyboard such as Twiddler offers such a solution (I have no affiliation). I believe it also integrates a mouse pointer interface to a limited extent. Presently, no aerial keyboard seems to have gained much widespread use due to a steep learning curve. However, depending on your patience and dedication, you can eventually achieve a typing speed equivalent to a traditional keyboard. It’s also relatively expensive as of this writing. Yet both of these factors are arguably justifiable in the long term (after several months). And not strictly justifiable but notably rewarding in the gained mobility for the remainder of your life.
Other easily implementable strategies
Carry a small notebook or a folded sheet at all times to document ideas. You never know when an idea could materialize. By being in a position to document an idea anywhere, you not only eliminate the risk of forgetting, but stimulate the flow of other ideas. I find that relying on paper as opposed to a mobile device also stimulates more creativity and cleanses the mind of digital distraction.
How does this relate to physical movement? By distributing your thought documentation and creativity spatially and temporally, you increase the effectiveness of other immobile sessions, spending more time in execution and less in contemplation.
Pace while reading.
Think while pacing. I actively paced around my desk in office settings. It may have annoyed some coworkers (or not), but health takes precedence.
Stand/pace while watching video content, be it on a mobile device or laptop.
Not only take daily walks, but incorporate more rigorous exercise throughout. If you see exercise equipment in a park during a walk, use it. Take advantage of the already gained momentum. You also lower the risk of injury by having already warmed up to some extent.
Even in the absence of equipment, perform other body-weight exercises or stretches anywhere. Calisthenics largely facilitates stimulating most muscle groups in improvised surroundings with some imagination. I have been without a gym membership for a long time, and I’m extremely active and dependent on exercise.
Stand on public transportation regardless of seat availability.
Minimize furniture and unnecessary objects in your space to increase room to move around.
One notable exception to the above I find in plants. Plant cultivation stimulates the ‘botanical garden effect’.
Think of yourself as a more organic extension of your surroundings. Develop a stronger relationship with your environment, be it nature, urban, suburban, developed, or underdeveloped. Animals maintain this connection on a stronger level. Don’t be inhibited by your surroundings, but rather reprogram your mind to maintain a natural connection with them. Observe and find ways to impact what’s around you.
Questions, comments? Connect.