Ask anyone and they will tell you that you have to exercise to be healthy and that sitting is bad for you and yet we still have a health and obesity epidemic. Why is that, when the answer just exercise more sounds pretty simple?
We are the only species that exercise
During this blog, I’m referring to the part of society that I live in, not to the few tribes that still live a relative hunter-gatherer life.
As an animal lover, it interests me that animals do not give over part of their day to exercise. Yes, you will see them doing some stretches before they get moving but apart from domesticated dogs who are made to go for a walk, most animals will go through the day with only the task to eat and get shelter ahead of them.
For most of us those two tasks are taken care of. Food is readily available and requires little to no effort and while you may have to work to pay for your shelter, chances are high the work isn’t that physically active.
The 3x a week myth
As a movement teacher, I tend to work with either motivated clients who want to move well or movement haters who do it because they feel the benefit.
I would have definitely put myself in the motivated movement category. I worked out most days of the week so I was active but actually, I wasn’t. Like most people, I saw exercise as a thing to do on my endless list of to-dos but I didn’t consider all the hours I wasn’t really moving.
The world around me said exercise 3 times a week to be healthy, so I did. And more. I certainly looked healthy and trim but as my studies into movement went on, I came to realise I fell into the actively sedentary group. The difference between me and a couch potato was about 5%!
Actively couch potato
5 PERCENT? No way! I have seen all the programmes of people tethered to their chairs munching bags of crisps and that was NOT me. In terms of movement though, it was.
My typical day looked like this…
- Get out of bed
- Make breakfast
- Feed animals/walk dogs
- Go to work
- Come home
- Walk dogs/possibly workout
- Cook dinner
- Go back to work
- Come home
- Watch TV
- Go to bed
With housework etc thrown in during the day.
When I stopped and looked at the range of movement I was going through in a day, there weren’t many and they were very repetitive.
For instance, my days pretty much didn’t require any twisting or reaching back or even much reaching up, not unless I was doing an exercise hour. Even with exercise, if you really look at the range of movement you go through in an hour, it’s pretty limited compared to what you are capable of.
Move smarter not harder
I began to look at all the places where movement was being taken away from me; shoes, pavement walking, shopping trolleys, kitchen cupboards arranged for ease, sofas, the car etc etc.
I didn’t have time to add in exercise to address the movement I was missing so the only solution was to work smarter and not harder.
Once you go down this path, life will never be the same.
The more we look for ways that life is being made easier, the more aware we become of how we have made a rod for our own backs. Our life of convenience and ease is slowly destroying both us and our planet.
We need movement on a daily – and multiple times a day – basis for our bodies to thrive and do well. Our belief that an hour of movement a day undoes the lack of movement for the other 14 or so hours a day is just not true.
As I began to Google, there was research to show that active fidgeters do far better than people who sit still. Tribes are constantly being researched to find out why they don’t suffer back pain or heart issues etc. It always comes back to the fact that they are all day movers and not necessarily runners or athletes.
Surely with all of our modern inventions, we should be leading healthy, long and better quality lives!
My solution was to stop doing so much formal exercise and to increase my movement level throughout the day.
- Shoes became a thing of a past but I make sure that the minimum 5 miles a day that I do are all on natural terrain that I vary constantly.
- I stopped using shopping trolleys, parked as far away as possible and upped using local shops that I could walk to.
- I rearranged my kitchen cupboards so that everything I use frequently requires me to squat or to reach up or climb.
- I sit on the floor as much as possible and move position constantly so that all of my body has to take part in keeping me upright.
- My desk changed to a standing one with a cobblestone mat and a half dome next to it.
- I spend as much time as I can outside with the least layers I can bear.
- I heard a handy tip of putting the loo roll behind you so you have twist multiple times a day
- And I don’t sit on the toilet anymore – think squats if you must picture it!
I try to think about everything I do and see if there is a way to get more movement in and I’ve learnt not to underestimate the smallest of changes.
It’s not that hard but it does make a difference
My biggest worry was that all these seemingly inconsequential things would lose me what I got from formal exercise. However, I’ve become not only stronger but more flexible. I squat and sit on the floor so much that my hip mobility has increased, my legs – always my weak point – are now much stronger than my arms.
I hadn’t factored in that stronger more flexible muscles burn more calories so I haven’t gained weight as I thought I might by seeming to do less.
Being outside so much more has improved my circulation beyond belief. Chillblains and triple layer socks are a thing of the past. Living a more floor based life means you have to go through multiple ways of moving to get up and down and reach for what you want.
I haven’t given up my bed but I do sleep around the house as each bed and sofa gives my tissues a different load and as my hubby is a grand snorer I actually get to sleep!
I’m currently working on texture. My hands are so used to smooth and easy that hanging from branches is challenging so having to compensate for uneven surfaces and rough textures is creating new loads.
I put this thought into the classes I teach.
It’s a challenge to meet peoples expectations of a formal exercise class but to also take them through ranges of movement that maybe aren’t available through the day.
If even one small change is made in someone’s day then I’ve succeeded!