Standing desks and PE in the kitchen: How I’m keeping active during the lockdown – Alastair Dalton

Commuting to the living room rather than the office might cut your step count to near zero but the coronavirus crisis could prove a game changer for cycling.

Cycling is an option for your daily exercise. Picture: Michael Gillen
Cycling is an option for your daily exercise. Picture: Michael Gillen

The shock didn’t hit me until after the lockdown started. How difficult could it be working from home, with laptops, broadband and a corner of the kitchen to work in? The weekend magazines even made the prospect of being confined to barracks alluring with their “Stay at Home” issues and reassuring “Who Needs to Go Out?” headlines.

Then I suddenly realised - the sudden change of daily routine threatened to reduce my physical activity level to near zero.

Normal used to be cycling several miles to work, working from a standing desk - I am, at least for the moment, a paid-up member of the “worried well” - and trips to the office kitchen and loo that kept my step count at a reasonably respectable level.

Standing desks may have been abandoned in offices but there are makeshift options at home

However, the new normal was the prospect of walking just feet between rooms in our house, sitting in unsuitable chairs to work and viewing the outside world through glass. We don’t even have any stairs, so that option wasn’t even open to me - one of the best forms of exercise you can build into your workday routine, I was once informed by an expert in physical activity at Edinburgh University - and it always makes a bigger impression when you’re given that sort of advice first hand.

So what to do, and many of you will be in a similar predicament? For starters, I’d suggest spending as much time on your feet as possible - didn’t you know that sitting kills?

I soon came to that conclusion on day one, after trying a variety of chairs while staring at my work screens, which are addictive at the best of times and even more so in this fast-moving crisis. Without noticing it, I had been virtually motionless for hours.

I solved the problem by fashioning standing desks using whatever was at hand - resting my laptop on a breadmaker in the kitchen one day, and on various thick tomes in the living room on the next. My son has an adjustable-height desk in his room, but I’m finding teenagers are very effectively self isolating, regardless of virus symptoms necessary, so that’s a non-starter.

I’ve also joined the online PE craze, and so far have just about got through two of Joe Wicks’ live YouTube sessions without collapsing. Clearing space in the kitchen, the cat scarpered and I joined nearly 1 million people lunging like Spiderman and leaping up like Pikachu. There was thankfully no home audience.

It’s 20 years since I last did that sort of workout, and I thought it would knacker me for the day. In fact, I was surprised to find myself glowing afterwards. But I am also feeling my thighs.

As for outside exercise, it’s funny how - like food rationing - you take your quota when it’s limited. We’ve got into a routine of mid-evening family walks in the neighbourhood, when we’ve hardly seen a soul. Our kids have taken advantage of the lack of traffic to skateboard down the middle of empty residential roads, something they’ve always wanted to do.

Strangely, I haven’t had a chance to get back on my bike, but the lockdown could be the game changer for this activity for many. It’s perfect for both social distancing and personal transport - to get to work if you need to, for that essential food shop and for your daily exercise.

With the roads quieter than normal, it’s an ideal time to give it a try, and if you haven’t got a bike lying at the back of the shed, cycle hire schemes in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Stirling/Falkirk are still operating. If you have got a bike, cycle shops are among those providing essential services so are allowed to stay open. Go for it!


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