Rethinking the Language of Exercise

For those of us who have grown up in sport or have been hitting the gym for years, the word ‘exercise’ is just part of our lifestyle. We know what we mean by it, we know how to do it, and it often brings with it fond (or at least proud) memories. But what about those of us who weren’t involved in sport as teenagers, or who’ve never stepped foot in a gym, or have never really had an exercise routine before? I have a suspicion that for these people, the word ‘exercise’ can actually be a little more ambiguous, confronting, or even stressful. And ultimately, that doesn’t help in trying to move towards a healthier lifestyle.

When I’m planning out exercise for a client or for myself, one of the ideas that guides my plan is movement. How can I move the body to get the best results? Which areas of the body should I think about moving, and how will the rest of the body be benefited? What direction, and with what speed, and with how much resistance should I move certain areas of the body?

What if we started to rethink the language of ‘exercise’ as ‘movement’?

Every time you move your body, you benefit your body. When we are trying to increase how much we exercise each day, it might be more helpful to think about how much we are moving. Instead of asking, ‘How should I exercise?’, why don’t we ask, ‘How can I move more of my body more frequently?’.
When we do this, we begin to understand that every day tasks like gardening, hanging up the laundry, crouching down to clean the shower, and going for a walk are good for our bodies. And once we understand that, it might be easier for us to think about ways we can increase how much we move.

Of course, while anything is better than nothing, the benefits of exercise (or movement) really start to kick in when we are moving for sustained periods of time (30 minutes or more, ideally) and in ways that make us work hard. If we can puff ourselves out a little bit or work up a sweat with our activity, that’s better than just doing incidental movements around the house. But once we start thinking about how our legs and arms and torso move when doing chores or taking the dog for a walk or carrying the shopping home, it’s much easier to start to work up to doing more movement every day, and thus keeping healthier and stronger.

What ways can you start moving more each day? Can you walk to the shops instead of drive? If you do drive, can you park at the furthermost parking spot, so maximise the walking distance? Can you put your washing basket on the ground when hanging out washing, so you move more of your body each time you pick up a shirt to hang out? When you go for a walk, can you set yourself a time to try and beat so that you walk a little faster? Can you and your friends form a casual sports team? Can you find stairs on your route (and take them, obviously)?

Little things can turn into big things. Little changes now can help you work up to bigger changes, and start to live a healthier life with a stronger body.

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