Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Keeping fit may be easier than you think.

For many people exercise is something extra to do in a busy schedule. This was not always so. In previous years we had to be active to stay alive. Our more ancient ancestors could only eat what they caught or gathered. Through the ages most work has been physical right up to the advent of the technological age. This included work on farms or factories. Until the 1950s most people had to walk or cycle to get to places, as cars were not commonplace.

Cast your minds back even one generation. To change the television set you had to get up out of your chair. To open the garage door meant getting out of the car and opening the door, walking back to the car and then driving in. Clothes were mainly hung out on lines rather than bundled into driers and dishes were mainly washed by hand.

Now there is no case to be made for going back to live in caves, nor any need to abstain from devices which make our lives easier. However there is never such a thing as a free lunch. I have seen estimates that all the labor saving efforts of the last 25 years mean we use up about 2kg worth of calories less each year in our normal day to day lives. After 10 years this is 20kg.

The main reason people give for not exercising is lack of time. Given that most of the devices, which reduce our “labor”, also save us time, where is all this time going? Statistics show that the average American spends 151 hours per month watching television. I suspect Australian and European stats may not be too much different. This is 5 hours per day. One tenth of that (30 minutes) per day is enough for an exercise program.

As I write in the book Dr Joes DIY Health-Putting you in charge of your health

“Exercise can be broken down into three main types: aerobic, resistance and flexibility. It is important to incorporate all three into your activity program to include elements, which develop fitness, muscle strength, balance, co-ordination and flexibility. Our bodies are not designed to be sedentary. Lack of physical activity is a major risk factor in numerous diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure and osteoporosis and a contributor to premature ageing.”

You need to do something you enjoy as this will mean you stick to it. Whether it’s running, swimming, tennis, bike riding or something else the key is to do it regularly.

There are also simple things you can do to be more active during the day .As link 1 shows walking or riding to work is good exercise (this wont suit everyone but is an option worth considering before dismissing). Given parking costs this could be a financial winner too (link 2).

Even easier is using the stairs at work instead of the lift or escalator. Again if you are on the 50th floor this may be impractical but you could walk the first 3 or 4 and see where that leads you. Many workplaces provide showers for employees, as the boss knows that a fitter employee is a more productive one.

When you go to the shops instead of looking for the closest park, look for one further away. This will man you get a walk and don’t have the agro of competing with others for that just outside the door spot.

Now many will be saying, I don’t have the time to do this sort of thing. Just pause and consider all the time you are not using with all the labor saving devices we now have. In fact next time you reach for the TV remote to change channels, why not push the off button instead and do something active.

1 http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/31893120/ns/health-fitness/?ocid=twitter

2 http://www.economist.com/daily/news/displaystory.cfm?story_id=14029444&fsrc=nwl

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