March 18, 2016

We Need to Rethink Exercise!

Today I came across an article on the CBC about how hard it is to get the recommended daily dose of exercise and it lit the fire necessary to post something. This article follows another earlier this week on the future of doctor prescribed exercise and the important role exercise can play on the treating (and preventing) of injury, illness, and chronic pain (just to name a few). Not only that, but it has been reported that exercise can also be impactful for mental health. In fact, exercise can be as effective on mild to moderate depression as an anti-depressant (but without the icky side effects).  Not only that, an exerciser will also benefit from all the other great things physical activity can do for us.

While it is exciting to see exercise being applied to health (versus weight loss), the challenge is still going to be getting people to do it (and stick with it). This has been my area of study and interest for over 18 years now and I still don't see a move towards a new way of thinking of exercise.  I believe it is because of our faulty attitudes and beliefs about what is exercise (and what we have to do to obtain results) that is holding us back from a lifetime of activity.

We need to rethink exercise and start understanding it as a tool for health and not a tool to get back into our skinny jeans.  We need to shift the paradigm and see it as activity vs. exercise.  Physical activity includes everything from walking, cleaning the house, gardening, hiking, and the rest of it.  Conversely, exercise tends to shift our thoughts to the gym, Cross Fit, high intensities, and spandex.  No wonder the majority of us aren't interested.

Although the message isn't sexy and doesn't come in the form of a skinny, beautiful white woman exercising in the latest outfits, it is important, impactful, and will help change our behaviour. Physical activity can be done in bouts of 10 minutes here and 10 minutes there.  The recommended weekly amount is 150 minutes a week (which is hilarious to me, I mean who the hell records their exercise in weekly minutes?). What this boils down to is a mere 20 minutes of physical activity per day. Do you clean house? Chase kids? Walk the dog? Ride your bike? Go for a hike? Garden? If you do...chances are good you get your daily dose.  The problem is, we don't see it like that. If we haven't run or gone to spin class or sweated we haven't worked out.

I'm here to tell you without a shadow of a doubt, we need to reconceptualize what it is to exercise and start focusing on the every day activities that can have a huge impact on our health. Not only will you feel better physically, but you will see a change in your mood and (if you are lucky) your sleep habits. There is so much that physical activity can do for us and it only takes 20 minutes a day (or 10 minutes here and 10 minutes there).

And that's difficult prescription, no rules, no special outfits, and no bullshit.

Have a great Friday.


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