Exercise is a hot topic. You can read silly articles in SHAPE magazine or watch ridiculous videos on YouTube of flashy moves that are two parts impressive and two parts death defying. Let me be very clear that incorporating exercise in your life does not have to be difficult, impressive, OR death defying to be effective. It does not require double daily sessions, hours long sessions in the gym, or marathon-esque cardio. As a matter of fact, it can actually be quite simple to achieve good health. For the exercise freaks out there, you certainly CAN try every variation of every new move and track every pound you lift. But only if that’s your thing. Otherwise, achieving optimum health is really not complicated or flashy.
You just need three components: lots and lots of movement, pick up some heavy stuff, and recover.
MOVEMENT is more important than EXERCISE.
This is really THE essential thing to remember. Most of the people we see at Haka Fitness don’t have an exercise problem, they have a movement problem. They sit all day- in the car to work, at work, on the way to the gym, on the way home, in front of the TV. So, even if this person is hitting the gym for 3-6 hours a week, they can’t undo all that sitting. Even worse, going from a state of unnatural positioning, held for long duration right into an intense bout of lifting, running, or even power yoga is a recipe for disaster! In her book, Move Your DNA, Katy Bowman expresses the body’s need for movement as similar to our body’s need for nutrition. You need a lot of it, kind of like a minimum caloric intake, and you need variety, lots and lots of variety. So just as you can’t thrive on getting your 2000 calories a day all from peaches, you can’t get all your movement from any one activity. Yes, I’m talking to you, you cardio bunny, you. Exercise CAN’T be your movement. Rather, it needs to make up a tiny piece of the movement diet. The rest? You just have to work it into your day. Walk to the store, use a standing desk, walk while you make phone calls, run around with your children instead of watching them, clean while you watch TV, have more sex (the men are clapping their hands)….. any and all movement counts!
Now that you are incorporating a lot more general movement into your day, it’s time to start picking up heavy stuff. I literally mean just that… pick up heavy stuff. This can be in the form of lifting heavy weights at the gym, or carrying bags of dirt and mulch in your yard. It doesn’t really matter. But, your muscles require this type of taxing effort both so you look super hot and because this type of exercise helps with hormone regulation. “Hormones, vast in number and comprising an intricately interconnected system, are considered by scientists to be the body’s most powerful biological agents, regulating almost entirely the chemical activities of the body. Their handiwork is reflected in the storage and distribution of excess bodyfat, the density and strength of muscle, levels of energy and sex drive and the symptoms of aging.” That makes them pretty important, huh? Growth Hormone, Insulin, and Testosterone all work together in the muscle building/fat burning process. The efficiency we have in building, repairing and replacing muscle is also efficiency in retarding the aging process.
RECOVERY is just as important as EXERCISE.
When all the movement is done and all the heavy stuff is lifted, rest (that means sleep) and recovery are absolutely essential! Over-training is a common occurrence, even in the general population and even when overall movement is low. Some of this goes back to our first point… sit sit sit sit sit….train like a maniac for an hour….sit sit sit sit…. you get the idea. These manic training sessions, even in the composite picture of too little movement become too much for the body. This results in LOW testosterone, blood sugar disregulation, and excess body fat to mention nothing of injury and burnout. It is essential to recognize that all stressors on the body (and exercise is just another physical stressor) have negative ramifications when left unchecked. Just as too little sleep, poor diet, excess mental stress, and pain can combine to create serious issues, so can too much exercise! When your body is very sore or you feel so incredibly fatigued, try just going through some dynamic flexibility or going for a walk. If you feel better after 10-15 minutes, go ahead and push yourself a little more. If not, keep the easy pace, focus in on good fuel, get lots of sleep and try again the next day!
This is part 6 in a 7 part series on the Foundations of Health at Haka Fitness. You can go back to the beginning and read them all by clicking HERE!