Less than one minute into our meeting, founder and CEO of TechLit Africa, Nelly Cheboi, asked me, “Would you like to get up and do 10 jumping jacks?”
I happily agreed to the challenge and there, in the midst of our Zoom call, we got up and moved.
That’s the idea behind Cheboi’s new app pushupbot—a seamless way to integrate physical activity into the busy days of working professionals. Pushupbot is currently offered as a Slack extension, so colleagues can keep track of each other’s movement in their team chats, and even opt to challenge each other in friendly workplace exercise competitions and tournaments.
“I think as humans, we tend to be too optimistic about how often we think we’ll do things, [like workouts],” says Cheboi. “But with pushupbot, it’s less about the reminder and more about the social aspect. It’s about the comradery.”
Cheboi understands that traditional fitness routines, such as going to the gym, aren’t for everyone, so she and other leaders are creating innovative ways for anyone to incorporate fitness into their life in a way that’s both feasible and enjoyable.
Dancing surely fits this bill—just ask Selena Watkins, movement coach and founder of Caribbean-inspired fitness brand Socanomics. Watkins says this fun fitness activity combines the best of culture and wellness. “When dancing, you’re moving in all planes of motion—up, down, in, out, around,” adds Watkins. “Dance is everything: It’s strength, it’s resistance training, it’s cardio (you can burn up to 1,000 calories each class), but it’s also multiplanar training.”
Socanomics offers a variety of dance workout sessions, so that you’re always challenged and never get bored. Some classes, like Carnival Body, incorporate equipment like dumbbells and resistance bands into the routine. Others, like the OG Socanomics class, require just your body. “Your body weight is a significant amount of weight and so you can train your body this way,” says Watkins. “As we move in these low-to-the-ground ways, you are training.”
With a two-year-old daughter at home, Karan Johnson, freelance writer for BBC and the founder of These Three Words, knows all about getting low to the ground daily. Between animal impressions (Johnson says hopping like a frog is particularly challenging), at-home rounds of Hide-and-seek, and chasing games in the park, Johnson says entertaining her daughter is a great supplement to her regular workouts. “It’s good for stimulating her brain, but it also keeps me moving,” says Johnson.
A movement routine with a multipurpose component is exactly what productivity coach Christina Garrett had in mind when she started motivating her clients to get out of their house or office and take meetings on the go—with a walk anywhere that entails getting up and moving their bodies to another location. “The majority of my clients are women with families,” says Garrett. “They are moving a lot, but most of the time, they’re not moving in areas that feed them physically, spiritually, mentally, and emotionally.”
That’s why Garrett says, “I try to create a lifestyle of activity instead of a gym moment.” She adds, “If our bodies are reflecting wellness, our hormones and our spirits aren’t far behind.”
Digital content creator Nicole Howard certainly wasn’t going to the gym during the pandemic. That’s what facilitated the start of her taking walks during her lunch break. During her scheduled walks, Howard was intentional about taking time to plug out of work and plug into the world of podcasts—GirlTrek’s Black History Bootcamp is among her favorites. After some time, the ritual stuck and is now a regular activity, something that she credits the app with helping her to accomplish.
“I wasn’t thinking about the steps, I was just doing them,” says Howard, but the tracking app on her phone gave her the proof she needed that walking made a big difference for her activity levels, and the motivation she needed to keep going.
These days, Howard isn’t too concerned about the numbers. The exercise is important, yes, but so is the habit of doing something for herself. “What I learned is I don’t have to do an hour a day. I don’t have to do four miles. I can literally do 10 minutes some days, and still feel like I committed something to myself that day. And I think that’s great for your mental wellness, too.”