Unless you’re a gym fanatic, exercise can seem like a daunting challenge to add onto an already busy schedule.That’s why those of us who live in higher income countries, like the US and UK, don’t get the recommended amount of exercise per week!
On top of that, when faced with quarantine during the pandemic, most of us chose making sourdough bread over working on our abs (understandably). I can attest to this, having gained more than a few pounds during the last 18 months or so!
So what can we do to break the streak? Let’s investigate a few obstacles that make regular exercise seem like an impossible task:
Our ancestors. We have to put a stop to this myth that our ancestors were these uber fit specimens with x-men-esque abilities. According to research, most hunter gatherers were reasonably fit, only spending 2 or 3 hours a day in vigorous activity. They were strong enough to survive, only active when it was necessary or rewarding. Exercising for the sake of fitness was unheard of!
Exaggerated statistics. Some information out there is designed to do only one thing: scare us. We sit too much! It’s as bad as smoking! Yes, sitting too long can be unhealthy, but so can too much exercise, or too much of anything. Balance is the key!
Pro-tip for those who might have jobs that require them to sit for long hours: getting up and walking around your office three times an hour wakes up your metabolism!
Guilt. Let me set the record straight: you’re not lazy just because you don’t love to exercise! Our ancestors evolved to avoid needless exertion, conserve their energy, and simply survive. So, believe it or not, your less-than-enthusiastic view of exercise is a natural instinct and can be hard to overcome.
Getting older means less excercise. In the past, many parents and grandparents lived into their seventies and needed to stay active to provide food for the children and grandchildren. Nowadays that isn’t the case, but that doesn’t mean there’s no reason to keep active!
Exercise is healthier the older we get, and getting just enough can reduce chances of rapid deterioration and disease. It can also be fun, so get out there with the kids or grandkids and move!
A set amount of exercise is needed for everyone. This particular myth is probably one of the worst obstacles. Recommended amounts of exercise vary depending on dozens of factors like age, level of fitness, and injury history! For some, as little as 10 minutes a day can yield substantial benefits. It’s best to vary the amount and kinds of exercise you do according to your circumstances.
In our modern world we do not have to be as physically active to survive like our hunter – gathering ancestors, nor do we share the anxieties of our not-too-distant predecessors who faced a shorter average life span.
Without the stress of guilt or exaggerated expectations, get the right amount of exercise you need and enjoy the benefits!
Kathleen Weaver-Zech and Dean’s Team Chicago