What does fitness mean to you?
I spent a good deal of time this past week reading about fitness. My conclusion: our lifestyles are working against us.
Physical activity (fitness) is one of the most important keys to health. Yet, our lives have become increasingly sedentary. How have we let this happen? And, what are we willing to do about it?
Inactivity has snuck up on us. When I was a kid, we lived in a two-story house with a basement. It was nothing to run up the stairs to my bedroom or down to the rec room in the basement. After dinner, my brother and I would play outside until dark -- running, roller skating, and riding bikes with no effort. And, in the summers, we'd swim as often as possible.
Do kids do any of that today? I'm afraid they don't. If we just look at walking today as compared to then, just that one form of activity is extremely limited. Children born today start out with the potential to be as active as we were then, but our modern conveniences train them to sit. We have remote controls for everything, so we rarely need to get up.
Computers, our phones, remote controls, etc. were all invented to save us time, but I'm afraid they have ruined our health in the process.
In Food Fight, Kelly D. Brownwell, Ph. D., quotes
Preventable! That's astounding. Just movement might have prevented all those deaths.
Let's look at the the positive side of that statement... .
Who doesn't want that?
Here's a breakdown of our status ...
- 23% of Americans engage in no physical activity
- 28% are not regularly active
- 20% of those trying to maintain or lose weight exercise 150 minutes per week (21 minutes per day)
- an alarming statistic for children: 50% engage in no physical activity. Unfortunately, this will probably mean that they will be worse off than we are health-wise.
Time for a change...
All this is preventable and we need to devote major effort to turning a corner back toward increased physical activity. When we talk about processed food and what we can do about purging the grocery shelves of unhealthy offerings, our opposition is the food manufacturers and their powerful lobbyists. With physical activity, there is no such foe. No-one is making us sit rather than move. It's within our purview to override the habits we've developed in response to this remote-control, computer-driven age. In other words, it's time to move. Here are some ways to increase physical activity:
- Walk. Plan a route and take a walk daily. Start with a reasonable distance and continue daily with that distance until you feel comfortable. Then, plan a new, longer route.
- Don't sit for long. Set an alarm on your phone and stand up at regular intervals. Start with standing every 15 minutes or every half hour. Not only is this good movement, but it will make it easier to get up.
- Rather than sitting while doing an activity, stand throughtout activities as often as possible. This will build up your endurance.
- Park a few spaces farther away from your destination (store, office, etc.).
- Take the stairs rather than elevator or escalator.
- Clean your house everyday. Add a morning routine to do a room-by-room tidying every morning. This not only gets you moving, but you will reap the bonus of coming home to a spruced up house after work.
- Work in the yard. Mowing, raking, and planting are all good for you.
- Use a pedometer to count your steps. Set an ever-increasing goal of steps to walk daily.
- Find a walking buddy and set a schedule for walking.
- If you are so inclined, take a bike ride daily and increase the distance you travel as you are able to do more and more.
- Workout, stretching, and yoga videos are good for increasing your activity in a structured way.
- If you take public transportation, get off at an earlier stop than usual and walk the rest of the way.
- Take an exercise class or yoga class. Often classes are helpful in sustaining your motivation.
- Join a gym and take advantage of all the exercise equipment available.
- Join a dance class or just turn on some music at home and dance.
- Feel free to use the comments to add movement suggestions of your own.
By way of summary, let me quote an article in the New England Journal of Medicine...
(Of course, check with your doctor before starting an exercise program. )