Exercise Biology

After switching from a flexible university class schedule to an 9 to 6 work day in lab, there is much less lenience when it comes planning out when one can exercise. Sure, a person could wake up in the wee hours of morning to go for a jog before making breakfast and getting ready for the day. Or he or she could head to the recreation center later at night after working on research conference applications, poster presentations, and PowerPoints. But for the STEM folk who just don’t have the same kind of motivation to stay fit as they do to excel in their field of research, I have devised a daily fitness plan for the scientist or engineer stuck in lab for the majority of the day. The workout happens to relate specifically to interns working in the Biological Sciences II building, but it can very easily be tailored to Engineering II, Chemistry, PSBN, or any other multiple-story structure.

Cardio Warm Up: Bike all the way to the Biological Sciences II building from home as quickly – and as safely – as possible. Brisk jog up three flights of stairs to drop off your items in the main lab. Jog up an additional flight of stairs to collect ice for your reagents. Jog down to the third floor to place your reagents in ice. Continue down to the first floor to get a refreshing beverage from the vending machine because you “unintentionally” forgot a drink to keep you hydrated during your lab-inspired workout routine. Jog up to the fifth floor to replace the media in your stem cell cultures.

When Researching on the Computer: Find a stable desk chair, preferably without wheels. If you only have wheeled desk chairs, make sure the back rest is against something sturdy, like a wall. Lower body such that back makes an acute angle with the top of the back rest, and elevate legs from the floor to create a position with your body resembling a V. Legs do not have to be completely straight to accommodate the laptop to be placed on your lower thighs or knees. Begin lifting up your knees to crunch your abdomen. Repeat for thirty to fifty reps. If the shaking of your laptop as you crunch is too distracting for you to effectively read scientific papers, raise your legs slightly higher than resting position so that your abdomen contracts. Hold for fifteen to thirty seconds. Release. Do at least three sets of desk chair crunches (or V-holds). To target your obligues, adjust body so that knees are pointing either to the left or the right. Proceed with aforementioned movement. Be sure to work both sides.

When Walking Down the Hall or to Another Building to Use Some Kind of Equipment Your Main Lab Does Not Have: Brisk walk. Sure, you’ll look a little foolish for keeping your legs unnaturally straight while trying to move quickly, but your calves will thank you after your eight to ten week-long research internship. Also, keep your abdomen contracted throughout the course of the walk.

Lunch Break: As inconvenient as it may seem, purposefully forget your lunch at home (if you happen to live nearby.) Or take the bicycle trip to Isla Vista to grab some food. That way, you are forced to have to slip in a little bit more cardio in your day; plus, your meal will taste that much better. If you have a busy day in lab or are a commuter, however, skip this step altogether.

Going Back and Forth from Different Floors to Access Different Labs: When going up the stairs, skip at least one step to create a lunge-like effect that will target your glutes and hind thighs. For taller folk, skip two steps.

Arm Stuff: Centrifuge containers are easily the best weights you’ll find in a biotechnology lab considering that they weigh about the same as a prepubescent child. Keep in mind not to lift aforementioned containers above your head, as they really are much heavier than they appear. If someone asks if you can help them carry samples, equipment, ice chests, or boxes to a distant location, do not hesitate to say yes. If at a desk reading articles, kick aside the desk chair and do fifty pushups against the edge of the desk while reading (Note: ensure that the desk can hold your weight.) Repeat for four sets. Mountain Climbers, planks, and other arm-related exercises can also be done in this fashion.

All exercises mentioned above can serve as a framework for a more effective lab-inspired workout that you can build yourself.

(Author’s Note: In actuality, you are far better off not engaging in any tomfoolery while in lab to prevent from equipment damage and poor experimental yields, and instead, commit to a daily exercise routine that you can complete after you finish your lab work. Just as it pays to work hard in lab to see results, working out to see results pays just as well.)

Karla Bernardo

Karla is a second year pharmacology major with a concentration in neurobiology and behavior. Her current research under UC Santa Barbara’s Neuroscience Research Institute focuses on genetic expression in neural development. Her previous experiences in lab include ecological parasitology and split-brain patient psychology. She hopes to further her scientific career in the fields of genomics, stem cell therapy, neurodegenerative diseases, and neural networks.