It’s a Lifestyle

Healthy Lifestyle

I think many of us need to change the way we look at fitness. Instead of thinking of fitness as something we HAVE to do a few times a week, what if we looked at it as a lifestyle change? We need to be realistic here. Working out for  3 to 6 hours a week isn’t going to make much of an impact if we are inactive for the 160+ hours left in the rest of the week. However, I want to note that being active for any amount of time during the week is a positive thing, even if it has only a small impact. A recent systematic review and meta-analysis that appeared in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed that prolonged sitting was associated with poor health outcomes no matter how much physical activity a person had. It means we need to get up and moving as much as possible throughout the day, every day. Consequently,  I have taken notice of an interesting thing at Ashland Anytime Fitness, the gym where I work. There are several people who walk, run , or bike to the gym, and they are all fairly lean and look to be in good shape. For them, the trip to the gym is another way to add more activity to their life. Being active is more than just going to the gym. They go to the gym to get more mobile, strong, and improve their conditioning, but it doesn’t end there.  In fact, many of them train in the gym to improve their performance in another area of life. This last Summer, I traveled to Bend, OR  to meet with my old college friends and I wrote a blog post about it here. We didn’t spend the time sitting around and reminiscing, instead we rehashed about old times as we hiked, swam, ran, and stand up paddle boarded. Getting away from the daily grind wasn’t a time to just relax, but also explore new scenery. All of us have been able to stay rather fit and healthy over the years, and being active is an important component of our lives. So how do you look at fitness? Is it something you HAVE to do a few times a week, or is it something you look forward to incorporating into your life as much as possible? Here are a few ways you can create a more active lifestyle.

  •  Skip the coffee shop or restaurant, and meet up with friends for a hike, run, bike, or paddle (kayak or SUP). If you want to catch up with latest happenings in your friend’s lives, why not be active while you are doing it? You can burn some calories, and get that “feel good” endorphin rush while you are chatting. You can always stop by the coffee shop or grab a bite to eat after your activity for some post workout recovery.
  • Use your legs to literally run errands. I mean, it’s okay too if you want to walk or bike, but ditch the car and burn some extra energy. Maybe it’s walking to the grocery store, running to the gym, or biking to the bank. As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, some of the most fit people I see, use their legs for transportation.
  • Join a sports league, a dance class, running/hiking group, or train in the martial arts. These activities are not only a fun way to get a workout, but they can introduce you to a whole lot of active people.  I have met a lot of great friends this way. Participating in a group activity can also be more motivating and help hold you accountable to showing up.
  • Combine a favorite hobby with movement, and take regular movement breaks at work. If you enjoy photography, take some long hikes and document your adventures with some photographs. Enjoy writing? Hike to a scenic spot in the wilderness and maybe your natural surroundings will drum up some extra inspiration. We can also look to add movement at work too. Have a lot of desk work? Invest in a treadmill workstation, or create your own. Remember to take breaks on regular basis and at the very least, stand up and do a little movement. Do a few push-ups, body weight squats, and hip hinges. A quick break is a great time to work on some of the basic fundamental movements. You don’t even need any equipment. Another option is to get on the floor and start rocking, rolling, and crawling. Check out this video and article from Outside magazine online with Steve Maxwell talking about a vestibular reset.
  • Plan an active vacation. The majority of my family vacations revolve around one or more family members participating in a race. First of all, it’s a good idea for everyone to take a vacation from work every once in awhile to break free of the routine and reduce their stress (although I will admit that sometimes vacations in themselves can be stressful. At least it’s a different kind of stress.). When possible, try to plan your vacation to places where the weather and terrain are ideal for being outdoors, and active. Last spring break, I went with my kids to Arizona, and we stayed in a Oro Valley, a suburb just north of Tucson. The weather was fantastic in the high 70′s and low 80′s. There were endless miles of bike paths and trails. People were everywhere walking, running, and biking. I played Tennis at the resort where we stayed. It was awesome!  I recommend doing a little research before you hit your destination to figure out the activities available and where the local trails are.  Once you are there, the locals can be great resources to help you identify some of the best places to go.

It is becoming more and more apparent that living a sedentary lifestyle is extremely unhealthy, even if we exercise on a regular basis. It’s going to take more than just a few bouts of exercise to counteract the negative effects.  It’s going to take a whole lifestyle change.  A change that includes an increase in movement and overall activity. I believe there are other added benefits to being more active, which include better sleep and deeper relaxation. When you do finally relax and sit at the end of the day, you can feel good about it, knowing you have truly earned it. I hope some of the above tips will be helpful. Feel free to share any other tips that have worked for you. It looks like the best thing we can do is to live each day with as much movement and activity as possible. I’m not talking about running yourself into the ground. Hard workouts can be great, but even light activity throughout each day will help us have less risk of health problems, and push back an early death. I’ll leave you with this, a Facebook post I read from Patrick Ward, a Certified Strength Coach and Licensed Massage Therapist. “If you do absolutely nothing active in life, you probably end up in the heart surgeon’s office at some point. If you go all out and be completely active, you probably end up in the orthopedic surgeon’s office at some point. Either way, you end up in some surgeon’s office, it just depends on how you want to live.” I’d choose the orthopedic’s office over the cardiologist’s office, every time!

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