(This is the first in a new series about health and wellness issues. I hope you enjoy.)
Most people will see the title of this and say, “Blah, why would I want to read about exercise and why would Trent even pretend to be an expert?” Well, glad you asked. Simple answer to the second part, I’m not. A slightly more complicated answer, I have read a lot of opinions, have watched people and have participated myself. Lately I’ve come up with my own theory about exercise and movement. No, nothing Earth shattering, but it might be worth your while to take a read.
First, of course, I think everyone needs some form of exercise. We were not designed to be sedentary. We are designed to move and when we don’t move things happen to our health, and not good things. But don’t be scared of the word “exercise”. I’m not saying everyone needs to run marathons or has to bench press 100 kg. I’m saying everyone needs to be active in some way or another. There is a saying, “Sitting is the new smoking,” and moving is the way to quit sitting.
After a little research and reflection I’m going to break exercise into a few categories. Experts may disagree but these are how I see them: 1. Activity, 2. Strength/weight, 3. Aerobic, 4. Sport/Yoga/Other.
- Activity. We have to move. I know people who do 10,000 steps a day. I know others who just take a walk. I also know people who sit like lumps 99% of the time but play a hard impact sport once a week. Uhm, that will not help you and only opens you up to injury. Activity and movement is a foundation, you need to move in some fashoin every day. Walk, run, skip, dance, play, swim, play with your kids or dogs, move, do something, anything. It is best to get the big muscles moving, but if you can’t because of a physical disability, at least get some muscles moving. Mix it up and move different parts of your body in different ways. Get up and stretch after a half hour of sitting. This is the most important form of exercise and the most natural. You have to move to build a foundation.
- Strength/Weight. This is something I’ve always been lax on, but it is important. If staying active is needed as a foundation, strengthening exercise helps build the structure. I’ve been doing more weight training lately and can’t believe how much easier even simple tasks are. Actually, I notice a bigger difference in simple tasks than big ones. I am much more flexible, which means I am less likely to get hurt doing other activities. It doesn’t even have to be a chore: I do 15 to 20 minutes of weight exercise 2 or 3 times a week and the outcome has been great. And I am not talking “body building”. It can be very simple, but you have to keep some strength and muscle mass. Although non-weight bearing is fine, weight bearing exercise helps with bone density and bone health. As more research is done the more the health care profession puts an emphasis on muscle mass and bone density as we age. Remember with weights – more weight less reps build while less weight more reps tone. Do what’s best for you, but remember, you will be more efficient, more flexible, stronger and leaner. Build a good structure for your body.
- Aerobic. You know this, but I am going to make up my own definition here. Aerobic exercise is moving in such a way as to make your breathing heavier and your heart rate faster for an extended period of time. The more elevated the better (OK, there are limits depending on your fitness level – safety first!). I also like to think sweating needs to be part of it – the more efficient I am at a sport the more I sweat, the longer I have been off of it (not working), the less. Aerobic exercise increases the health of your respiratory system. It helps your heart and lungs. Truthfully, if I can’t do aerobic exercise for a few weeks, I start to get foggy and lazy. I have to do it.
I think everyone needs to do three types of exercise above to some degree. In fact, I’ve read and seen that all of these are need to lose weight and keep it off; these three along with proper nutrition. of course These keep the basic systems of the body intact. But then there is the next step, putting it all together.
- Sport/Yoga/etc. What I am talking about here is putting the mind into it. I think sport is important because it makes us move in different ways depending on the situation. The whole system works together with the mind to achieve the goal. The unexpected helps keep us sharp. Yoga is different in that the unexpected does really happen except in that if you are in a class the next move/pose might not be what you thought it would be. But with yoga, if you do it right, you have to think and concentrate and, in the end, meditate. If you simply use it as a full body exercise, fine, but you are not getting the benefit you could. I would include a long night of dancing or the more intense forms of dancing here. As I said, the whole idea of this fourth category is using different muscle groups in a coordinated way and incorporating the brain into it. This isn’t boring reps with weights, just running while the brain is turned off, swimming laps, etc. You have to be involved 100%.
I hope you enjoyed my brief, non-expert introduction to moving and exercise and got something out of it. Of course everyone is at a different health level and the whole idea of being healthy means being safe, ie, don’t do anything stupid ;) Some may need to consult a doctor or expert, but all of us needs to move in some way or another. Let me know what you think of this quick intro.