Move It! For Long Term Physical Health

Move It

Yesterday my husband and I took a long sweaty hike. There was enough elevation gain to make us huff and puff, and enough beautiful things along the way to keep us happily moving forward. At the top of the mountain, we were rewarded with a view out across the sound that is simply impossible to get tired of. Every time we do this, I get the sense that we are doing something we were meant to do.

Unlike me, my husband tracks every step he takes. I find that the doing itself is enough.

Or is it? I started to wonder; How much exercise does one really need?

I set out to answer that question only to have my eyes glaze over after the first two minutes of research. And therein lies the problem, at least for me, and I dare say a lot of people. Yes it is good and important to exercise but we would like to enjoy what we do. While there is a certain attractive quality about going to the gym, watching the hard bodies, and sweating alongside other devotees, after a while the repetition can get boring. And boredom is the enemy of maintenance.

If you are interested in your long-term physical health, finding something you love to do can make all the difference. If you love fitness itself, all the better. But if you are not quite the “workout” type, here are some thoughts that might help.

It doesn’t have to hurt. Take it easy – especially to start. Work up slowly. Fitness is a life long goal, not a weekend endeavor. Nothing quells the urge to get in shape faster than burning yourself out. Note: If you can’t move on day three, you are not very likely to want to repeat the process – whatever it is. Walking is a great exercise, and almost anyone can do it. Choose something of intensity and duration that you know you can do.

It’s worth it to try some different things and see what you like. While Cross Fit was a huge hit with our son, I knew after watching another participant hurl (and have their name put on a board under the “pukie” list?!) – that it was not for me. Yoga maybe, hurling, no. I am not that committed to anything. Find something that suits you.

Notice what you have accomplished and enjoy it. If you just walked a mile and you have not walked in ten years – wow!  Yay you!!! No one else’s fitness routine is comparable to yours. Congratulate yourself and take pleasure in the fact that you are a physical being.

Build in some kind of reward. A view works for me. Coffee works for other people. There are apps you can get that track and verbally congratulate you on your progress. Whatever creates a positive feed back loop for you, that’s what you want.

Invest in things that assist you in the pleasure of doing, and wherever possible, streamline what you are going to do. I was once a fitness instructor, and I do realize the very real benefits of lifting weights and monitoring progress, but I also know that if you have to change clothes and drive half an hour to get to your workout, you are more likely to go for a while and then quit. Club memberships are partially built on this fact. Whatever you can do to make your workout simple and pleasant, (for you) do that. If a new workout outfit or pair of shoes keeps you getting up and going in at 6:00 AM, stack up the togs and footwear! If what you need for inspiration is the clank of another 20lbs on the end of the bar, find the easiest, simplest way to fit that into your life. If you hate the gym, don’t go. It’s a big world. Find something else that moves you. Try a bike or maybe Tai Chi!

Invite a friend. – Or not. There are endless studies that say that you are more likely to stick with your chosen physical pursuit if you have other people to do it with. I wonder. People are great, but a four-legged companion can also provide lots of inspiration. I ran for years with our dog, and when I was riding, my horse was also my partner. In both cases the addition of two-legged companions just multiplied the pleasure. However, there were also times when I was really glad to have the time to just run by myself.  No one to check in with or worry about can be a big relief. Discover what keeps you going. It might be something as simple as watching the sunrise or counting your breath.

Remember that life is movement, and that can include “work.” Somehow a lot of us live in a world that separates exercise and work. It doesn’t have to be that way. A couple years ago we had some major work done on our house that required digging a huge trench. Neither of us had wielded a shovel in a while and we were not excited about starting. The plumber we were using recommended a fellow from the next Island who he claimed “loved to dig.” I was skeptical, but it was obvious as I watched that he really did take pleasure in the chore itself. When he was finished, I thanked him profusely and noted that he seemed to really like digging. He smiled broadly and said “Yep. It’s like getting paid to go to the gym.”

You Are Never Too Old. We tend to think of fitness as being the territory of the young, but as long as we are alive, we move. It’s worth doing it consciously. I was recently home to visit my 90 year old dad. There was a bit of kidding about his age and his general state of health. At one point he said to me, “Well you know, if you keep moving they can’t bury you.”

CDC recommendations according to age group

CDC specifics and types of exercise for adults

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