Miles Kington Remembered: Who says twiddling your thumbs is a waste of time?

16 October 2000
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The Independent Online

It's all very well the way people rush off to work out in the gym, and have personal trainers, and achieve fitness at the expense of total exhaustion and frequent injury, but what happens if you haven't got a gym nearby, or the equipment, or the time? And what if you just don't like exercise?

Easy! You follow the Minimalist Fitness Routine! This series of exercises can be done almost anywhere, almost anywhen, focusing on one muscle or set of muscles at a time. They can even be done in business meetings or while driving down the motorway! And no equipment is required except your own body! Just run your eye over this mouth-watering selection of exercises...

Nearly crossing your legs

We often cross and recross our legs to change sitting position, but it is easy to use this motion more ergonomically.

Method: Start crossing your legs, and just as one leg is about to land on the other, freeze it in mid-air for as long as you can. The muscular effort involved will be invaluable for the thighs.

Thumb twiddling

We talk about "twiddling our thumbs" as if it were a time-wasting activity, but it is a good exercise in co-ordination.

Method: Join fingers of both hands and let thumbs chase each other round the gap. Make it more fun by seeing if one thumb can catch the other up. Then reverse the direction of one thumb, which is much harder than it sounds. For a change, press thumbs against each other and see if one can push the other back, like two tiny rugby scrums.

Note: We are often told that it is the opposable thumb that separates humans from other animals – that and the sense of humour that allows us to laugh when we hit the thumb with a hammer. But how often do we give this priceless thumb a full work-out?

Eyebrow raising

The muscles used to raise our eyebrows are situated in our forehead, and if we neglect them they are likely to grow sla ck and allow wrinkles to appear on our brow, causing the appearance of ageing. So, the more we raise our eyebrows, the better toned the skin will be and the younger we will look. Eyebrow raising can be done at any time (during car journeys, at work, etc), but preferably not during conversations, as it will send out an unwanted signal of disbelief to your interlocutor.

Method: Raise eyebrows slowly. Count to 10. Lower. Later, when fitness is increasing, try raising them one at a time.

Checking traffic behind you without a mirror

Our neck muscles get awfully stiff in our daily routine, so frequently turning round in the driving seat on the motorway to do a visual check on cars behind is a wonderful way of toning up those very muscles.

Method: Turn slowly in both directions until you can see behind you. See how far you can reach without twisting your torso.

Hint: Don't run into anything in front. And don't make back-seat passengers feel they are being stared at.

Turning a rubber washing-up glove inside out, then back again

This is wonderful exercise for all the fingers. It serves the additional purpose of getting encrusted talcum powder from inside the fingers of the glove, if you are one of those people who believe that putting talc inside rubber gloves makes them easier to get on and off.

Method: Turn a rubber glove inside out, then back again.

Hint: Don't get cross.

One-handed nose blowing

With two hands, it is almost too simple to blow your nose – with only one hand allowed, the co-ordination needed is much more demanding and, of course, your thumb gets even more exercise.

Method: Blow your nose one-handed. Hint: Don't forget to use a tissue.

Restraining a fart

We all know that desperate moment when you clench your buttocks to prevent unwanted body air from escaping. Very often this fails, simply because the buttock-clenching muscles are not in good shape, simply because we never exercise them enough. But you don't have to wait for a fart to give your buttock muscles an outing! Do this exercise regularly at other times, and you need never be embarrassed again.

Method: Clench buttocks for count of 10. Relax. Repeat.

If you would like a full copy of the Minimalist Fitness Routine, including many other classic routines such as Kissing Without Touching, and Going to the Lavatory in the Dark, just send me a blank signed cheque.

The Archive Hour: Kington's Last Tapes is broadcast on BBC Radio 4 at 8pm tomorrow