How much do you move?
Do you have an active job that keeps you on your feet for most of the day? Or do you have an office job/a job that requires you to sit down for hours at a time?
When we look to change our activity levels the majority of us automatically jump to exercising; getting more workouts in during the week. We think that this is the best way for us to burn more calories and therefore move closer to our goal of weight loss/reduce weight gain (unless we are exercising to increase muscle mass).
In reality the thing we should focus on first is day to day simple movement.
The majority of our daily calorie expenditure comes from our non-exercise-activity-thermogenesis (NEAT); basically the day to day movement we do that doesn’t fall under the ‘workout’ category. Things like walking, doing the housework, doing the shopping and even fidgeting all fall into our NEAT category for energy expenditure. So if we are looking to be more active to help us manage our weight we first need to look at how much we move during the day as opposed to how many times a week we can get a sweat on.
Step trackers are a great way to monitor this as majority of them are fairly accurate and if you spend most of the day sat down you can use the tracker to work on building up your activity without too much effort – it just takes being a bit more conscious. If your tracker is telling you you have only completed 800 steps at the end of your working day you can then acknowledge that this ideally needs increasing and so you can either go for a walk after work before settling in for the night, get some fresh air and up those steps for the day, or you can think; “tomorrow I will go for a little walk around the office once an hour/when I’m on the phone I will pace around my desk rather than sit down/on my lunch break I will pop out for a little walk…” By being aware of your daily activity you can implement little changes, little habits that help you in the long run. They don’t have to be difficult or intense but by doing small things like taking the stairs, standing on the tram, going for a little walk on your lunch or standing up and stretching your legs every hour you will increase your NEAT and therefor be in a better position to manage your weight. These little habits will also be more sustainable for most people than getting up at 5am every morning to get a daily gym session in and therefore you are more likely to keep going rather than miss your gym session and feel guilty about it causing you to write off the entire week.
Exploring Movement First – away from weight management
Of course the reasons why we should focus on our fundamental movements first before jumping all in with exercise, goes deeper than just for our weight management.
As humans it is in our nature to move. That might sound very obvious; but with a world full of ‘easy-options’ at our fingertips we have become unnaturally sedentary whilst conditioning ourselves to think this is natural.
We don’t need to go out to the shops as everything can be delivered to us, we don’t have to stand and wash the dishes as we have a machine that does it for us, we don’t even have to go out to the cinema as Netflix, Amazon, Sky and the rest, provide a huge variety of shows for us without us needing to leave the comfort of our own home. We have become lazy as a society and the majority of people would rather queue to get in a lift than take the stairs even if they are running late.
Ultimately by buying into all of the ‘easy options’ we are conditioning our bodies to be lazy and we are doing ourselves a disservice. When you reach your elderly years what do you want your standard of life to be?
Do you want to be struggling to walk unassisted, if walking at all? Do you want to be able to do the simple things like make your own lunch, pop to the shops, have a shower…? Or are you looking forward to needing assistance with every aspect of your life?
If you don’t take the time now to work on your movement habits you are most definitely declining your standard of living not just in the present but for the future too.
The basic movement patterns for humans are: Stand, walk, run, lift, bend,
hinge, squat, push, pull.
So try to do these during your day. Do them often and do them well.
Lift your child up. Bend over to pick up your washing basket. Squat down to see whats in the back of your cupboards. Push your vacuum around the house. Keep performing your day to day activities and don’t take the short cut. Move because you can and so you will continue to be able to do so for as long as possible. Don’t look back when you are 85, waiting for someone else to pick up the fork you just dropped and wish you hadn’t been so lazy in your earlier years. Don’t take for granted your body’s ability as one day it might not be able to do these simple tasks.
Respect your body. Move because you can. Work on increasing your natural daily activity before filling your week with hours of exercise. Not just to help with weight loss/maintenance but also to do what your body was designed to do. Keep body your body and your mind healthier for longer.