30 Years of Health and Fitness – Part 2

I would like to share with you some nuggets of information you can use, based on observations over my 30 years in the health and fitness field. I selected ideas that I feel are often left out when these topics are discussed. They are loosely organized by theme. The first episode, on “healthy habits,” is available here. Today’s post is about “embracing movement and exercise.”
Embracing Movement and Exercise
Movement is essential to optimal health. The main challenge for many people, especially Americans, is that it is possible in our culture to be completely sedentary. Therefore you have to go out of your way to create opportunities for movement. Here are a few ideas to overcome some of the common barriers to enjoying an active lifestyle:
Understand the importance of being active
  • The human body wants to move. Yours, too. Everyday.
  • Movement isn’t only about muscles and heart health. When we move we support all processes: digestion, immunity, detoxification, and even cognition and psychological health.
  • Movement for health includes what most people think of as exercise, such as jogging or cycling. But it also means everyday movements such as housekeeping, playing with kids, gardening, etc.
High intensity exercise is not required 
  • Low to moderate intensity activities have a powerful and measurable impact on health and longevity. However, they do not result in a sculpted athletic body, which many people equate with results.
  • Many people know that they need to move more, but because they think it requires intense huffing and puffing to do any good, they don’t do anything and they miss out on an essential component of wellness.
  • Give yourself permission to not be an athlete if that’s not your thing.
  • Advanced exercisers need to push past their comfort zone to achieve new performance gains. New exercisers need to discover their comfort zone.
Use the power of habit, not willpower
  • When it comes to healthy behavior such as exercise, relying on willpower has been shown to be a poor strategy. Instead, use the power of habits. Set up a routine that is a good fit for your needs and decide ahead of time what movement or exercise you will do, when, and where. Repeat.
  • If you want to do anything on a regular basis, make it convenient. Choose a gym near your house or work, for example, rather than one that has great amenities but is out of your way.
  • Activity intensity can be increased or decreased depending on what is appropriate at any given time of life, without abandoning the focus on healthy movement.
  • When you avoid an active task in order to save time, such as using a leaf blower instead of a broom, or driving instead of walking, consider that you are outsourcing movement, not just saving time.
Don’t be too ambitious in the beginning but ramp up over time
  • When someone who has been previously inactive tells me they have joined a gym and have gone everyday for two weeks already, I don’t rain on their parade but I know they will soon give up because it is too much. Their previous lifestyle will reassert itself. Instead, if someone says they are going to a class twice a week and walking with their new dog another time or two, I think they have a good chance of keeping it up. They have accountability, variety, and the time demand is not overwhelming.
  • Movement habits need to be established first. Fitness can then be built on that foundation. Many people make the mistake of alternating between inactivity that is unhealthy, and excessively intense exercise that is unpleasant and injurious. They swing between neglect and abuse of their body. Instead, move gently as a default lifestyle, and build up fitness gradually if desired.
Embrace your active lifestyle starting today! Keep an eye out for the next installment of the Helpful Concepts series, where I will address how to sustain this health giving habit for a lifetime.