A 2015 Harvard study found 73% of adults played sports when they were younger, so perhaps that’s where we got this idea that exercise had to be strenuous, rigorous, and all in one long bout to really make a difference.
I too played sports so I know how it went – show up for a two hour practice where you run around learning skills and getting in shape for whatever sport it was, and then you’re done for the day.
Come to think of it, that’s how gym class is too! So even the people who shied away from sports were conditioned to the fact that physical activity occurs in a designated block throughout the day (and often included embarrassing who-gets-picked-last moments).
And because so many of us lived that childhood experience, it only makes sense that we still believe exercise or physical activity in adulthood should remain relegated to that designated space and time.
Except that’s now how we were built!
Do this little exercise with me and imagine what it was like 100 years ago (when cars were in their infancy), or 1,000 years ago when world conquering was still in its prime, or even 10,000 years ago when we were living in caves and using bone tools.
Our ancestors didn’t relegate exercise for health purposes to a specific time segment throughout the day, it was a part of their everyday lives.
(Okay, to be fair, I doubt they were worried about health in the same ways as we are, but this is my imaginary exercise, so play along ;-))
Everything from hunting to gathering, shelter building and finding heat required the expenditure of calories. Activity for health was built into their lifestyle – sometimes in bigger bouts (ie a hunt) and other times in smaller bouts (ie gathering some branches for a fire).
Not once did they attend a group fitness class because they had an extra 60 minutes and wanted to work on those lean pilates arms (#goals).
Looking the Part
If you’re still along with me on this imaginary exercise, imagine how goofy it would be if our ancestors changed clothes each time they went to gather food or firewood.
Do you think they had different ensembles for shelter building (complete with a turtle shell hard hat), hunting (with moisture wicking buffalo leather), and leisure time (does animal hide make for good, stretchy sweatpants?).
Assuming you’ve given it some thought like I apparently have, it’s obvious that it would have been silly for our ancestors to do that. Not only were resources VERY limited, but in a hunter gatherer lifestyle, the more stuff they had, the harder it was to relocate. So more chic outfits meant more to carry from location to location.
But somewhere along the lines, someone decided we had to have separate clothes for when we want to be active.
Marketers got their claws in fast and deep on this one! For myself included. Give me a good pair of running crops and I’m WAY more likely to get a run in.
However, it’s not a requirement to have the latest Lululemon outfit to go walking around the neighborhood.
Nor does it take anything special to do a few push ups after each time you use the restroom – no workout attire required when you incorporate activity into your everyday life.
Taking a Page
Taking a page out of our ancestors’ book, the goal of building a healthy lifestyle is to do just that … build it into your lifestyle. Not to relegate it to a specific time block throughout the day where you have to trudge through a miserable workout that you don’t even want to do.
Instead, you can do a few squats here and there or a 4 minute circuit while your coffee brews (yep, in your PJs no less!).
And then when you accumulate seconds or minutes of activity at a time, it all adds up throughout the day. Plus the added bonus that you don’t have to find an hour or two each day, AND you don’t have to change your clothes each time you’re going to do a push up (unless you really want to look good in those purple crops).
So step one of building a healthier lifestyle is realizing (and accepting) that a lifestyle isn’t sequestered into one or two hours of your day, a lifestyle is your all day, your everyday.