“Myth of Exercise: If it’s not hard, you don’t hate it, and it doesn’t make you sweat, DON’T BOTHER.”
Ever heard that before about exercise? It was likely from someone on Facebook with six-pack abs shaming people for not having their discipline to get up at the crack of dawn, put on stretchy pants, do specific fat-burning exercises in a fasted state, sweat buckets, and then drink a special protein and kale shake with their proprietary blend of weird ingredients afterwards.
Nonsense! Let’s take back “exercise” and do what is fun and reasonable to enjoy good health.
I am here to tell you the truth about exercise. You don’t have to ever “exercise” again as long as you are moving your body like a human animal for significant periods of time each day. You even get bonus points if the movement you choose is joyful to you and if it puts you in a “flow” state where you lose track of time. This could be splitting and stacking wood for your woodstove, walking in the woods, playing tag with your children, biking around the neighborhood, dancing in your kitchen, doing yoga, working in the garden, and a multitude of other possibilities.
Put on those walking shoes, Baby!!!!
Ok, I will admit that special clothing does make some of those activities a little easier, such as a tight shirt for yoga so it doesn’t flip over your head in downward dog. However, it’s best to not always have to change outfits to get your body moving. It’s a daily obstacle you don’t need and could be the difference between moving and not moving for some people.
Love to be yelled at while flipping tires at CrossFit? Great! Then boot camp style workouts and lots of grunting is joyful to you at some level and keep doing it until you don’t like it anymore. Then, you have permission to stop and find a new activity that is fun and keeps you active and strong.
Think about those groups of people around the world who have been studied because they tend to live long, active lives free from dementia. What do they have in common? Guess what? It’s not CrossFit but it also isn’t Netflix and a comfy couch.
They move their bodies in normal activities of daily living and they move a lot. And, by “a lot”, I mean they almost never sit down unless they are eating, sipping tea, meditating, or sleeping. They are active. They are busy. They have a purpose. They do useful things. They don’t get shunned from society when they get old. They have relationships with people younger than them. They have a certain zest for life.
These are all reproducible!
Now, do I think you should NEVER do anything that isn’t fun? No. Personally, I would do a few things that may not be fun in order to stay strong…. Strong bones, strong muscles, and strong brain.
For example, a few times per week, if your joyful activity doesn’t involve doing something really hard such as lifting weights, flipping tires, stacking wood, or arm balances, then I recommend a few strength exercises as well as a simple exercise to improve your balance, which notably, also helps to improve your brain and spinal cord pathways.
Here is a short list of strength exercises. Pick three on any given day (no special clothing required):
- Squats with weights in your hands
- Lifting heavy weights over your head
- Planks and forearm planks
- Jumping rope (the impact of this exercise helps with bone density)
- Crunches or bicycle crunches
- Pull-ups or chin-ups (you may need to stop at a playground for this one)
- Wood-chops (just like it sounds… pretend you are chopping wood with a handweight)
Here is that balance exercise:
Stand on one foot with very good posture and your hands down by your sides, palms forward. Close your eyes. You may immediately fall over at first yet your goal is to practice until you can hold the position with your eyes closed for 20 seconds.
There is a mostly American phenomenon of training for feats of strength and distance events. You’ve seen it. There is a 5k or torture obstacle race for everything now. If it sounds fun to you and will get you off of your phone and Netflix, then I say go for it.
Moving your body with other people around you cheering you on during both the training and competition phases is very motivating and gets lots of feel-good hormones going. Just don’t go back to your couch once the event is complete. If that activity didn’t bring you joy and you were just “gutting it out”, find something you like that is more practical to do on a daily basis.
The moral of the movement story here is to walk and walk and walk some more. Every day. And sometimes lift heavy things, carefully of course, such as weights, wood-chopping accoutrements, children, or your own body.
Moving your body is a celebration of life. If you CAN do it, then you MUST do it (assuming health is a priority to you; it may not be for everyone). If you cannot walk for some reason, move whatever body parts you can until you heal enough to get walking again.
Movement is not punishment and the prescription of daily movement will likely prolong your life and give you mood-boosting benefits. Remember the study that showed 30 minutes of daily walking was better than a pharmaceutical drug for depression? (Check “Dr. Google” if you want…..)
Cool news about exercise and chromosomal DNA protection…
A recent study compared the physical activity that people do with the length of the telomeres on the ends of their chromosomes. The telomeres are a protective layer on chromosomes that get shorter as we age. Longer telomeres are associated with a longer life. Therefore, age can be determined by measuring the length of the telomeres. They are not only linked to chronological age but also to biological age.
The big question was, how much exercise is necessary to keep those telomeres longer and therefore, the person’s biological age as low as possible?
The study quantified the amount of exercise needed to maximize telomere length. The most active people had the longest telomeres and the sedentary people had the shortest telomeres. It was concluded that the optimal time spent walking briskly was 45 min per day 6 days per week for women (or jogging 30 min per day 5 days per week) and 60 min per day 6 days per week for men (or jogging 40 min per day 5 days per week). *This study was reported on and discussed by the podcast “The Health Report” on the May 29, 2018 episode
This is fascinating news! All you need to do is walk. Of course, harder exercise is fine, too, yet not possible for everyone. Almost everyone can walk. If health is a priority to you, and it likely is if you are reading this blog post, then get your comfy walking shoes on and go outdoors. You won’t regret it.