I posted on social media this past week about walking not counting as “exercise” and it got me wondering… since when do we have to exercise or workout for it to count as physical activity?! After all, that’s what’s recommended by all the research to get health benefits – physical activity, aka just moving your body. When did it become all about grueling WODs (that’s Workout Of the Day for the Crossfit newbies), intense cycling sessions, or 1000 degree yoga classes?
This isn’t to say those things aren’t good or that they don’t come with their own sets of benefits, but my gimme-the-facts brain went to work figuring out just when were we brainwashed by the fitness industry into believing physical activity wasn’t enough?
So, down the rabbit hole I went.
- For some context, here are some definitions (courtesy of the Google)
- Physical Activity – any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that requires energy expenditure
- Workout – a session of vigorous physical exercise or training
Exercise – a subset of physical activity that is planned, structured, and repetitive and has as a final or an intermediate objective the improvement or maintenance of physical fitness
When did exercise even become a thing?
I found a timeline of the History of Women’s Exercise from Women’s Health Magazine – did you know gyms used to be called “reducing salons” in the ‘40s? Some other fun tidbits from the timeline: “slimming suits” (aka today’s sauna suits) have been around since the ‘50s; and the sports bra was invented in the ‘70s (shoutout to whoever did that! Life wouldn’t be the same without them).
Despite tracking workouts and exercise back to ancient times, it seems the brainwashing began gaining traction in the ’80s (thanks Jane Fonda!) and ’90s when personal training started growing in popularity. That’s when exercise – or jazzercise – became the new physical activity.
Since then, the internet and social media have only solidified the notion. Look anywhere today on any media platform and there’s no shortage of workout videos, posts of running stats (sheepishly raising a guilty hand) and gym selfies.
To be, or not to be… on social
On the one hand, it’s probably doing many people a lot of good – it can be motivating on days it’s hard to get going; you can use it for accountability by posting workouts consistently; and the internet has endless ideas to help alleviate workout boredom, meaning you might actually stick with it this time.
That being said, it’s also setting some unrealistic, and even intimidating, expectations about what it looks like to live a healthier life. No wonder exercising and getting fit and finding time to go to the gym and eating right (and, and, and…) seem like a huge mountain to climb – it’s a daunting total lifestyle overhaul!
First, hit up the grocery store, meal prep each Sunday (who has that much uniform tupperware?!), get a gym membership, figure out a workout or hire a personal trainer, try all the group fitness classes, find time for the gym which probably means sleeping less, buy new workout clothes (‘cuz look good, feel good, right?)… soooo much stuff just to get started.
Whoa, whoa, whoa!!! What if I like my lifestyle and I just want to feel a little better, or look a little better in my clothes … or out of my clothes? Shit-outta-luck according to the interwebs, it’s all or nothin’, beefcake!
I’m taking a stand
Well, I’m here putting my stake in the ground that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing, and you don’t have to be a beefcake unless you want to be one. Start with just 2% – devoting thirty minutes to physical activity equates to just 2% of your day. See there? I said physical activity, not workouts or exercise. Just move your body for thirty minutes.
It can be a WOD or SoulCycle or Bikram yoga if that’s what you’re into, but it can also be walking, gardening, dancing with your little ones to the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse theme song on repeat.
And don’t think it has to be a consecutive thirty minutes either! Make it a point to park at the far end of the lot at work, take your fur baby around the block in the morning and evening, or spend commercial breaks of your hour-long show trying out yoga poses. As long as it’s a deliberate/intentional/conscious thirty minutes, count it sister.
The physical activity math works out
That’s ok if you’re sitting there thinking I’m crazy and there’s no way just doing 2% can make a difference. But again, my gimme-the-facts brain did the math (via calculator, of course): if you do thirty minutes daily, you’re getting in 182.5 hours of physical activity! Compare that to *maybe* making it to the gym two or three times per week for the year – only ~130 hours.
It DOES add up and it DOES make a difference. You might even find that after a few months you’re willing to do more than 2% (no pressure) or that your thirty minutes goes from a stroll around the neighborhood to a brisk walk and then to, dare I say, a jog?! Not every day, but maybe one day a week you decide to challenge yourself with your thirty minutes.
Then watch the magic happen.
You won’t get “six-pack abs in 7 minutes per day” or drop “10lbs in 10 days” but modifying just 2% of your lifestyle will make a lasting and noticeable difference. And when you do get your 2% in, I hope you tell me about it on social media so we can begin un-brainwashing ourselves. Find me on Facebook or Instagram, or just use the hashtag #whatsyour2percent.