Yesterday we discussed the importance of a health-centric life and how you can begin to shift your daily nutrition habits towards living health first. Today we will continue that discussion with the emphasis on another foundational piece in building a healthy lifestyle, exercise.
Exercise is defined as an activity requiring physical effort, carried out to sustain or improve health and fitness. Now when we think of exercise we often think of it as a chore, something we HAVE to do, and this way of thinking can often discourage people from actually doing it.
I think it’s time we changed our perception of exercise. Exercise is not a chore it is a necessary prerequisite to a happy life. As humans we moved around all day for 99.9 percent of our existence. It is only in the last hundred years that we have begun to sit on our butt all day, in front of the TV, computer, phone, or at work. We used to hunt, farm, and build things all day in order to survive. This daily movement created balance in our bodies, a balance that kept us lean, strong, and healthy.
Your body and mind NEED exercise to function correctly. Did you know that if boys are taught things like math through while moving they learn better? Sitting all day is the new smoking. Something we know is harmful to us yet we continue to do it.
I found myself facing this exact problem recently. I’m now 41 years old and I have a torn labrum in my hip. I can no longer WOD every day, change direction quickly, or kick without pain. This has taken away a lot of the sports I have played all my life leading to me sitting down a lot more than I used to. Combine that with the gyms closing and I had a recipe for disaster. I began to sit more as a result and my health began to suffer. I gained 5lbs of fat, I lost 3lbs of muscle, and my strength began to leave me, literally. This then began to affect my self-esteem, energy levels, and relationships. My whole identity has been tied up in being a high-level athlete and now I was injured, fat, an old.
So instead of feeling sorry for myself I decided to do what I could and began to reinvent myself. I decided to move more, eat less, and focus on the things I could do, not on the things I couldn’t. I began to walk 3 miles everyday first thing in the morning, NO MATTER WHAT, I began to stretch more, and before the quarantine, I even joined a bodybuilding-style gym where I could use machines that would allow me to work my leg muscles even with a torn hip.
We shouldn’t see exercise as a chore but as a privilege. I thank god every day that I wake up with the abilities I have to perform the tasks that I can, and do the best I can with what I have.
This brings me to how you can start to make the best of what you have and use it to improve your health and by proxy your quality of life.
Here are 3 things you can start doing today to move further away from disease and closer to health.
1. Walk Every Day
Walking improves fitness, cardiac health, alleviates depression and fatigue, improves mood, creates less stress on joints and reduces pain, can prevent weight gain, reduce the risk for cancer and chronic disease, improve endurance, circulation, and posture, and the list goes on… A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that those who adhered to a walking program showed significant improvements in blood pressure, slowing of resting heart rate, reduction of body fat and body weight, reduced cholesterol, improved depression scores with a better quality of life and increased measures of endurance.
While the physical benefits are notable, the mental boost that can be gleaned from adding a walk to your daily routine may be more immediate.
One Stanford University study found that walking increased creative output by an average of 60 percent. Researchers labeled this type of creativity “divergent thinking,” which they define as a thought process used to generate creative ideas by exploring many possible solutions. According to the study, “walking opens up the free flow of ideas, and it is a simple and robust solution to the goals of increasing creativity and increasing physical activity.”
I know for a fact that walking can be a little boring so I use a couple of different techniques to keep it fresh, like throwing on a podcast or dropping down every 10 mins for 30 push-ups. You can listen to music, and perform different exercises like squats, lunges, and push-ups, or even throw in a jog to burn more calories. Boxers call this road work and it does wonders for you.
The important thing is to do it every day. Like brushing my teeth walking has become a fixture for my morning routine. I wake up and I walk it’s that simple. Did you know that 10,000 steps a day can help you live longer? Harvard Medical School reports that a meta-analysis of walking studies shows that walking 9 miles a week lowered the male premature death rate by 22 percent; 30 minutes a day decreased the chances of men developing coronary artery disease by 18 percent; and walking for three hours a week lowered women’s risks for heart attacks, cardiac death and stroke by 34 to 35 percent.
So as they used to say in the ’90s, get ta steppin!!
2. Start training and stop working out
Do you know the difference? If you go into the gym and just randomly pick machines or exercises to do then you are working out. If you go into the gym with a written plan for exercises, reps, sets, and rest periods, then you are training.
If you want to get better at something you need to treat it as practice–that’s training. You need to focus and concentrate and have persistence and patience. You need to take advantage of rest and you need–more than anything–to employ progressive overload. (You also need to assess weakness.) You can’t just keep doing the same things over and over. You need to increase the demands, since that’s what the body adapts to. You need to lift heavier, do more sets, stretch more often, and get used to being upside down. Just mixing and matching exercises into a circuit isn’t training. That’s working out.
Working out is fine at the beginning of your training life because early on you can do anything other than nothing and still see results, but after a couple of months you will plateau which is another word for not getting any better. That’s why training is so effective, if done correctly you can continue to get better for years. This means measuring yourself periodically to see where you are and then programming your workouts to improve in a specific way.
This is what we do at Live Free CrossFit. We test you and then program workouts to help you increase your strength, endurance, and stamina. Leads indicators lead to health improvements such as improved fasting insulin, insulin sensitivity, bone density, improved blood pressure, the list goes on and on. I haven’t even touched the surface on improved cognitive function either, but I’m sure you get the picture.
If you are working out and seeing results then keep going, but if you are stuck and not sure of what to do, come by and see us and we will get you started moving the right direction.
3. Start Your Day With Exercise
When it comes to exercise, the best time of day to get in a workout session is one that you can do consistently. Everyone is different. While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer, morning workouts have many benefits. Let’s look at the potential perks of an early sweat session.
Morning workouts allow you to do the hard thing first, instead of waiting till after work when you just want to go home. It’s a proven fact that your will power lowers with each decision you make and the longer you wait to train the more likely you will be to skip it.
A morning workout may be a better match for your body’s hormonal fluctuations.
Cortisol is a hormone that keeps you awake and alert. It’s often called the stress hormone, but it only causes problems when there’s too much or too little of it.
Typically, cortisol increases in the morning and drops in the evening. It reaches its peak around 8 a.m. This means that your body is made to train early and rest later in the day. If you train later in the day you actually increase cortisol and upset your body’s natural circadian rhythm, which will disrupt your sleep, and impair your ability to recover. A 2014 study in Vascular Health and Risk ManagementTrusted Source demonstrated that adults got better sleep on the days they exercised at 7 a.m.
After the morning workout, the participants spent more time in deep sleep and experienced fewer nighttime awakenings. It also took them less time to fall asleep.
I know it can be hard to make changes regarding your health but if you just make one change every day you will see some huge changes over time. I challenge you to get up early and going for a 30 min walk. That means going to bed early tonight though because you shouldn’t be sacrificing your sleep for any reason, not even exercise.
Tomorrow I will dive a little deeper into the importance of sleep and why it’s the most overlooked aspect of a healthy lifestyle. Thanks for tuning in and don’t forget “Sharing is Caring.”