Over the years I have changed my exercise routine a lot. I go through periods of high intensity exercise, and then it slides and I fall back into doing absolutely nothing. It has taken a long time, but I'm finally realising that when it comes to long-term health, that moderate consistent exercise is key.
Many of the healthiest cultures in the world according to Blue Zones - Okinawa (Japan), Sardinia (Italy), Nicoya (Costa Rica), Icaria (Greece) and the Seventh-day Adventists in Loma Linda, California, adopt an attitude of consistent steady movement. And traditionally aren't focused on extreme exercise. They were farmers, shepherds, and in general moved for much of their day. It was a necessity. Transport in these towns was mostly by foot.
Even now in places like Copenhagen and Paris the cities are designed to encourage getting from place-to-place by walking or riding a bike. And Italian families and friends often take a leisurely stroll in the evening (called passeggiata) which encourages socialising.
But in today's society many cities are making it easier for people to get from one place to another, without the physical effort. Trains, busses, cars, ferries... it's easy to jump on, sit and arrive at your destination.
With a lot of us now working online we then spend most of the day sitting in front of a computer. And with long work hours we have little time or energy to do much outside of that. So we live a very sedentary lifestyle.
Many cities are also spreading out. People are living in the suburbs. Which means the distance to get to work is long and not conducive to walking or riding.
So it's no wonder we resort to extreme exercise in order to stay healthy and in shape. But is it sustainable long term? I think that consistent exercise we can sustain long-term is key for good health.
I do believe our bodies need to move to a point of getting our heart rate up. And there is evidence to suggest that it helps with depression, anxiety and stress. So fitting in things like a game of tennis, going for a run or riding a bike are beneficial. Partaking in activities we enjoy so exercise doesn't feel like a chore or punishment.
But I I think that moving as much as we can in our everyday is really what matters long term.
So how do we do incorporate movement in our everyday when our work involves sitting for the majority of it?
A start is by making it a little harder for ourselves to get to where we need to go, without making it too hard that we resort to commuting by vehicle.
Parking further away so we need to walk a bit further. Taking the stairs rather than the elevator. Riding a bike with our kids to the local park rather than driving. Standing and stretching throughout the day to give our bodies a break from sitting. Taking a walk around the neigbourhood before or after dinner.
Walking and moving as much as we can.
I used to be a morning exerciser. I loved getting up at the crack of dawn and going for a run or walk. Feeling the cold air brush across my face in the early hours. Now we have two little ones. The kids are hungry and that time of day is more chaotic. So throwing on shoes and heading out at sunrise isn't really happening. I've found it a little challenging and I've had to adjust how I move throughout the day.
But that's life isn't it? Our situations change, so we have to work with them and adapt.
We may have health issues pop up, which many of us do. So our usual routine of exercise has to change. But that's OK. It's still possible. It just means looking into other ways to move, that we can keep doing consistently over long periods of time.
Now I focus on walking and moving as much as I can. I have Leila in a carrier or push her in a stroller and we walk to get a bagful of groceries rather than drive. We recently moved closer to her daycare, and future primary school for my son so I'm now able/will be able to walk them both to school rather than drive them by car. I find I'm on my feet for most of the day attending to their needs. I skip the process of getting into gym wear and most days wear clothes that allow we to get on the floor and do strengthening exercises during nap times - sit-ups, lunges, push-ups etc. And I often take my son to a park on his day home with me and we run for half an hour kicking a ball or sliding down slides.
Life changes and our situations change often. So sometimes we are forced to alter the way we exercise. But I think if we keep consistent movement in mind, rather than placing pressure on ourselves to do extreme bursts of exercise that leads to boredom, then we have a greater chance of success at staying healthy long-term.