Creating a culture of physical health
Today’s technology has significantly reduced the need for us to physically demand much of our bodies – instead of walking, we drive; instead of using the stairs, we take the lift or escalator; instead of playing outside, we play video games indoors.
Technology has also led to the development of over-complicated exercise equipment, which has subsequently led to the creation of over-complicated training methods. Therefore, it make sense to change our exercise behaviours – to join a gym, to exercise regularly – in order to reap the benefits of lifelong physical health, function and vitality. But is a change in behaviour all that’s needed?
For any change to be sustainable, a cultural shift needs to take place. Strong cultures form when ideas, behaviours and customs come together. In the world of health and fitness, there are no shortage of ideas, many of which motivate people to exercise – new exercise equipment, the latest training trend, celebrity diets. However for many, this exercise behaviour is sporadic, non-achieving and often short-lived. What is often missing is a deeper understanding of the values and customs around exercise behaviour. Knowing why you are exercising, training or moving helps to clarify what your are doing and how you are going about it. And when this becomes clear, your behaviour becomes habitual.
For modern humans, our work and recreational environments often demand skilful use of our body’s. The advancement of technology and environmental adaptation has led to a dramatic decline in this use, and a subsequent loss of capacity to adapt to the demands of our environment. What was once natural, skilful and purposeful is now unnatural, inefficient, and meaningless. With this in mind, the ability to move our bodies shouldn’t be thought of as a form of training, but instead an essential part of our development and a platform for optimal physical health and well-being at any age.
We’re built for movement and lots of it. Look at our physiology – we have naturally strong feet and ankles, long limbs, mobile hip and shoulder joints, and a unique upright posture that gives us the capacity and flexibility to fully explore our environment. These explorations draw on the simple skills of pushing, pulling, squatting, stepping, bending, twisting and of course locomotion. In a natural environment, we perform these movements in balanced amounts and at intensities that are task-dependent. In the modern world, we have lost both the balance and regularity of these fundamental human movements.
MOVE WELL. MOVE OFTEN
Regular movement is more than just going to the gym 4x per week. And your body is designed to perform a few fundamental movements well. Scientific evidence indicates that one exercise session in an otherwise sedentary day does little to positively impact overall health. Of course, it’s still OK to go to the gym or play sport, but the key to long term physical health is also about balancing your workout with good movement, and supplementing your workout with regular, lower intensity activity during the rest of the day. Using a stand-up desk, walking more, taking the stairs, mini workouts during the day, washing the car, playing with the kids – these are simple examples of how we can remain physically active during the day, to boost gym-based training.
Lifelong physical health requires a cultural shift in the way we think and feel about exercise. To enjoy the longer term benefits, we must understand the body’s needs for regular lower intensity activity, and a balance of simple movements such as squatting, stepping, bending, pushing, pulling, twisting and locomotion. In this way, staying in good physical health will become less of an intervention, and more of a lifestyle behaviour.
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