Another summer may be behind us but every season has much to offer. Cooler temperatures make many activities more enjoyable – as always let’s think forward…
We started blogging early on inspired by a video by Dr. Mike Evans. Here again he cleanly and clearly addresses an important aspect of health and fitness – activity. As we mentioned in an earlier post there are changes you go through in life which make getting overweight tough to avoid. Furthermore, they make it really tough to stay thin…and no they aren’t the same thing.
As fitness professionals we often hear “I can’t stay thin, it’s too tough, it’s just not worth it”. Feeling something is tough to do is a conclusion drawn by comparison to other things you do. Modern living has conspired to make life easier under the assumption that this automatically translates to higher quality of life. Less stress, less having to work hard for things as always been a hallmark of progress. Unfortunately easy access to calorie dense food has also come with progress. Now it is wonderful that starvation is being abated but the health issues related to lack of fitness and being overweight have shot up dramatically.
We promote the simple four-part fitness formula of: ‘Exercise, Activity, Rest and Nutrition.’ The reason for this isn’t just to be thorough and it isn’t just to break things down into important sections. What we have strived to illustrate in this blog…more than anything is this:
It is the interaction and accumulation of things which affects your health and fitness most.
You may think that a ‘best’ diet is most important or that a particular form of exercise is key but really the devil is in the details. One thing influences another, poor snacks and heavy meals add up, lack of strength slows you down as well poor rest hinders proper body function. You can’t keep track of it all and fitness often just feels out of reach or tough to control. Here with a reduction in activity due to technology another big influence conspires to ruin your health.
Reduced activity degrades fitness which leads to lack of energy which in turn slows activity levels across the board. The resulting feeling of sluggishness mixed with an agitating boredom can cause food cravings. We are designed to eat for energy and when we feel low energy we crave calories especially from sugar and fat…namely starches like chips and crackers etc.
Did you catch that!? The more out of shape you get the less energy you have the more you feel you need food for energy… more food which makes you more out of shape!
Next consider lack of exercise and activity will make sleep less necessary to certain parts of your body. This means getting required sleep for other parts like your nervous and endocrine systems is tough. It’s tougher to settle down and rest because parts of you just aren’t tired. Then lack of sleep makes you feel even more sluggish and again hungry. Problem is you eat but don’t have anywhere to use the calories. Lack of muscle and low activity levels mean most of what you eat is stored as fat. It is a trap and way harder to get out of than most admit.
It is true that a part of what we teach is that you can’t out run or out exercise a poor diet however there is more to it than that. Trying to use one single form of activity like spinning class or running can drain one system far more than the rest of you. That stress needs recovery time and it is tough to get recovery for just that one system. The body needs balance in its subsystems. Using only one form of repetitive activity no matter how regular does not equate to good fitness. This is akin to how under eating all the time does not necessarily make one lean and fit but only skinny and weak. Always…health is about a balance of fitness amongst all the systems. And imbalances in one will cause problems for another. To put it in plain terms:
You can get both too little and too much of a good thing.
Mixed activity is a great balancing agent in that it can vary widely and thus can help many sub systems. We have evolved to be in regular motion with walking being the primary. Lack of regular motion and varied physical actions is a significant downfall of modern living. Lack of moderate challenges to all our subsystems has a nasty cumulative effect over the years but most accept this, the more hidden effect is small but insidious, let us explain.
We mentioned in the past that lack of proper exercise to combat age and lifestyle related muscle loss is a big reason we build fat stores. Less lean muscle mass means less of a need for calories even if you are still just as hungry at the end of each day. Now add in reduced levels of mixed activity and you have a recipe for disaster. It is so simple when you look at it from a wide perspective but confusing when you’re in the middle of it.
Say you we’re use to eating 2000 calories a day and not gaining fat, over time your lean mass slowly reduces almost imperceptibly. Now weeks turn into months turn into years, a reduction in lean muscle might mean you need to reduce daily calories from the 2000 you are use to down to 1700…but you don’t. Even if you go on a diet (where you temporarily tough it out at say 1500 calories per day) you eventual go back to eating the amount you are use to and the fat comes back. Now add to this that you are always looking to do less so called menial physical action. You strive to be efficient and find ways to get everything done with less time and energy. Thus, you may still have planned activities in your life but walking to distant places, lifting things etc. are cut to a minimum. You don’t run and play, you don’t carry heavy objects very far instead you put it in a vehicle and so on and so forth. This means you may now need to reduce from 1700 to 1500 calories a day…or get fat…maybe not obese overnight but fatter each year.
See what has happened? Two very simple little subtle life changes necessitate you being on what would actually be a diet…all the time…just to not get fat. Furthermore, if you have unwanted fat you need to go even lower then comeback to the already low amount to maintain. Add to this that you continue aging and dieting encourages muscle loss. See what is happening? These little things spiral out of your control because they create an unrealistic environment for fitness. You can’t be expected to eat like a bird everyday just to stay at the same basic body fat percentage!
The take home message is that we can tell you from experience if an individual can’t find a happy medium of all things there will never be long term fitness. Inactivity begets inactivity which begets fat gain which in turn breeds a negative attitude. This just like lack of exercise begets weakness begets fat gain. We need to stay active by enjoying such. Reasonable nutrition, rest and exercise will encourage an active lifestyle. The same can be said no matter what order you say it in. It all works together, you can’t just ‘get active’ and replace exercise because proper targets weaknesses. You can’t just exercise but remain sedentary otherwise. Good nutrition will only go so far if you have little need for the nutrients because of lack of exercise and activity. And rest, well rest will be never feel satisfying or worse yet it will become really hard to relax deep enough to actually recover.
Regular healthy activity has a multitude of fitness benefits. Just using your body as it is designed adds life to years if not years to life. What should you be doing? That’s the great part…whatever you want. Just keep moving and don’t be afraid to try new things. If you don’t like it do something else, just keep moving. As the video states a good attitude is to try and approach activity like you want more.
Treat activity like food rather than work, something you want as long as it’s not too much and as long as it is relatively safe.
As mentioned walking is primary, you can hike around and it is great activity. Sports are fine as well but you don’t have to think of activity as always being organized. Pay attention to your body. When you feel energized go enjoy your zeal and get out and about full of purpose. If you feel sluggish try a slow ramp up and see if movement helps. Perhaps you are cranky or nervous, again use movement to rebalance your system. Over time activity will expose you to so many new avenues of life you won’t even think of it as fitness related it will just be natural.
Be active daily and give yourself and avenue to discover your weaknesses so you know what to exercise. Give yourself a reason to take in nutrients and give your body the primer it needs for restful down time. If you are uncomfortable being up on your feet moving then you have conditions which need serious attention. Know that you are a being which is meant to be in motion and thrives on an active lifestyle. No need for stringent rules or even expectations, just move…and live…dynamically!
Andrew & Tierney