Arts Desk

Ditch Your Gym Membership, Work Out at the Museum: An Arts Desk Guide

We're not sure what to make of this video, posted yesterday on the Phillips Collection's Experiment Station blog, in which the museum reps for first lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move!" exercise campaign. Apparently physical and cultural health can go hand in hand, hence a gang of small children frolicking (but not running!) through the museum's halls, eating fresh fruit in its cafe, and pausing to consider a Renoir. And taking the stairs, not the elevator. Mousercise, this is not.

The museum (one of 407 institutions nationwide participating in the "Let's Move!" Museums & Gardens initative) would have you take advantage of its new "90 Minutes @ the Phillips" guide, which involves 1,250 steps, 200 paintings, and presumably a few burned calories. Sounds—ahem—like a bit of a stretch.

But for the cost-conscious, culturally literate exercise freak, museums aren't a terrible gym stand-in. Consider: An individual membership at the Phillips is $60 a year, while the basic rate at the closest sports club is $69 a month, plus fees.

Screw that. D.C. has plenty of venues for simultaneously losing weight and feeding the soul, and plenty of them are free. We may be on the schlubby side, but here are our recommendations.

National Gallery of Art Treadmill
The NGA's underground moving walkway is the quickest way to shuttle between the museum's east and west wings, but if you enter it facing the wrong way, it easily doubles as a treadmill. Bonus! Avoid tedium by looking at the pretty ceiling and tripping the light fantastic.—Jonathan L. Fischer

Spelunking at the Corcoran
Walking? Taking the stairs? That's beginners' stuff. Want a real workout worthy of Michelle Obama's chiseled biceps? Get yourself some climbing rope and a grappling hook and head down to the Corcoran. Walk up to the lobby, hurl that anchor over the second-floor railing, and start climbing. Better yet, shimmy your way up one of the lobby's 40 Doric columns. You'll be part of the first lady's gun show in no time. Need to get down? Chris Martin's "Painting Big" exhibit is the perfect rappelling surface.—Benjamin R. Freed

Kid-Dodging at the Air and Space Museum
Stand in the main lobby, otherwise known as the "Milestones of Flight" hall. Plant your feet firmly and face the door. When a large group of children enters the hall, do not give up your position or move your feet. Work your core as you twist and turn while waves of tykes push past you. ADVANCED LEVEL: Jump vertically over every fifth child who comes at you. EXPERT LEVEL: Perform the advanced-level technique while blocking the McDonald's line in the cafeteria at lunch time.—Joe Warminsky

Richard Serra Iron Man
Intrepid visitors to the National Gallery's East Wing may want to try moving Richard Serra's "Five Plates Two Poles." One warning: It could be a killer of an exercise, literally. Without a few hundred friends to spot you, one false move and your desire for a slender frame will be realized in no time flat. That's because, weighing in at several bajillion tons, Serra's work can kill you.—John Anderson

Planking at Natural History
You've heard all about the body-stiffening fad, but did you know it's great for your abs? You can really up the adrenaline rush and burn more fat knowing you're planking atop a plesiosaur. You'll score loads more Facebook friends once they see you lying on a pterodactyl or flattening out betwixt T-rex teeth. Just be sure and bring a photographer, as they won't be provided.—Ryan Little

Work Out Like a Journalist!
Put yourself in peak physical condition by following the exercise tips of the Fourth Estate. Go to the Newseum. Find an old, beaten-up chair. Slouch in it for several hours. At around 4 p.m., begin to get stressed out that the work you had all day to finish is due soon, but you haven't actually started it. Walk—slowly—to the nearest vending machine, and purchase something bad for you. Complain a bit, then go back to slouching.—Mike Madden

Copy a Toddler in the National Building Museum's Play Area
Stack the blocks. Run into the little house. Run out of the little house. Fight over some blocks. Run into the little house. Run out of the little house. Go make pee-pee. Stack the blocks again. Run into the little house. Run out of the little house. Say, "I'm hungry!" Forget you are hungry. Throw something. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. CALORIES BURNED: Infinite.—Joe Warminsky

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