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Integrating movement into everyday spaces

One of the things I’ve been enjoying during this work-from-home set-up is my very own home.

I don’t have to sit in traffic for hours, and instead, I have extra time available to putter about, enjoy my living spaces, and listen to videos and podcasts about health, wellness, among others, while I work.

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One of the significant conclusions drawn from diverse studies on health and well-being is that bodily movement is the number one essential in reducing the ill-effects of ageing. This applies to overall internal bodily functions, too. As these findings grow, we have become more conscious of our inactivity, and we thus monitor our movement by way of personal fitness tracker apps and bands. These gadgets track our steps, remind us to get up from our seats every hour and prompt us to stand and stretch, integrating some movement into our sedentary routines.

But it’s not easy to be active. When the built environment is designed for comfort, convenience and efficiency, it can lack the elements that encourage and promote motion. Moreover, when our tasks are engaging, we can be glued to our tables for long hours enjoying the in-the-zone moments, forgetting that our bodies don’t enjoy this.

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Studies show that the lack of movement can overuse certain muscles and ligaments, as human bodies are built to squat, sit, climb, twist, lift, bend and sway, to keep supple and be functional. We must then find ways to provide the opportunity for various postures and for motion, even within our limited spaces. Here are a few approaches.

Have open spaces for stretching and training. Have a designated open space where you can elongate your body taut, and move your limbs freely, without your other furnishings getting in the way. Your big queen size bed can accommodate your body, but you need a more rigid surface to keep your back flat and stable. Stretching loosens tight muscles, joints and facias, thereby improving your range of motion, posture and blood circulation.

Go the longer way. If you are still planning your spaces, design for longer routes or alternative paths that create extended movement both indoors and outdoors. For example, instead of having your herb garden closest to the kitchen, have it instead in an area that will call for a bit of a trek. Locate it in the other balcony perhaps, or at the far corner of your garden.

Purchase a stable stool or stepladder. Treat it like a piece of furniture and not as a tool to be put away. Better yet, integrate steps and ladders into the various features of your spaces. Make retrieving from the higher portions of storage cabinets or closets a regular thing. Stepping up on ladders engages more muscles in the lower body than walking or running would. It works both the muscles and the joints of your legs and hips.

Have an assortment of furniture types. In my work room, I use an ergonomic desk chair, but on the side I have a more rigid side chair, and beanbags on the floor. The variety allows my body to enjoy different positions, from standing upright, to seated upright, seated leaning, being partially reclined, and being in a complete lying position. Pieces that provide this variety and more will help the body relax as it takes one posture and yet another, allowing various bone and muscle groups to contract and stretch, even while at rest.

Interchange your furnishing pieces. Every now and then, use a different piece of furniture for a similar task. This way, if you can’t change your daily habits or routines, you can change what accommodates you, thereby creating a different experience for your body as well. Small changes like the distance of a reach or the height of a table affect the way the entire body responds to it. The work-from-home arrangements have thankfully prompted a variety of tables and chairs with adjustable heights to flood the digital marketplace.

When we design for movement, we help maintain the balance, strength and flexibility in our bodies. We live better quality lives because we can handle our bodies and they become less prone to injury. And our overall bodily functions perform better, too.

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Given that the work-from-home arrangement has given all of us time away from sitting in traffic, and more time to move even just within the confines of home, I’d like to think that we’ve gained a few more months—or years—of life.

But we don’t have to look too far ahead. Like that old saying goes: What’s more important is that we have the life in our years, and not just the years in our lives. And that goes for anyone at any age, whether you are 20 or 60.

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