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Carries Wellness Challenge

Book Review: "Instant Recess"

by Adkins-Ali Carrie / August 25, 2010

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People move less than ever before. Consider that 25 percent of the population reports no activity beyond that required for basic functioning, like walking to the fridge. We're overweight, under-fit and marching swiftly toward a massive health disaster.

So here's the good news: the worse things are, the more improvement small changes will make. Consider Toni Yancey, MD, MPH's concept of instant recess. It's a 10-minute burst of activity that's low-impact, easy to follow, can be done in street clothes and, most importantly, is integrated into an organizational routine. It's not going to solve the obesity/inactivity epidemic, but it's most certainly a step in the right direction.

Here's what it could look like:

  1. At 3 p.m. every day, employees play music and dance for 10 minutes on company time.

  2. A group of executives skip the boardroom and walk while they discuss business.

  3. During a long meeting, everyone takes a 10-minute break to perform simple exercises.

Yancey's book, "Instant Recess: Building a Fit Nation 10 Minutes at a Time," is brimming with statistics, facts and examples of why we're in the state we're in and how we can take the first steps to get out of it. I loved this book. And it wasn't just the wealth of facts and information, but the author's voice. Her enthusiasm for making positive change drips off of the page as she outlines a simple and effective program and then provides plenty of evidence to back up the benefits.

Every time I picked up the book, I felt energized and excited about Yancey's message. Of course, I also felt incredibly guilty about lounging about and reading instead of moving around, but I solved that dilemma by reading while walking on the treadmill.

Those of us who exercise of our own free will are a minority, Yancey stresses. The rest of the population needs a little push. And making exercises a standard part of, say, the workday, may be just the thing to get sedentary people to get moving, even if it's just a little bit.

While bean counters will undoubtedly scoff at the idea of paying employees to exercise for 10 minutes, consider the case of L.L. Bean. Three times a day, the company stops the assembly lines for five-minute stretch breaks. That's 15 minutes with the lines shut down. But instead of losing productivity, the company actually gets 30 minutes worth of output because the employees are more efficient. Helping employee health helps the company's bottom line. Imagine that.

The book isn't aimed at casual exercisers, or people who should be exercising, but rather at public health programs, company owners, bosses, community leaders--anyone who can make a difference in American habits by making 10-minute exercise breaks an easy and desirable option for people. Of course, any sedentary person will learn a wealth of information about why they need to move, but this isn't a how-to-exercise book. It's a how-to-improve-American's-health book. It's a great read for anyone interested in fitness beyond the personal. It should definitely be required reading in MBA programs.

"It's time to put the policies and practices in place that will make it a lot easier for people to make the active choice and increasingly difficult to make the sedentary one," Yancey says. The health of our country depends on it.

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