Arguing With Your Smart Watch - Are Steps Exercise?

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Arguing With Your Smart Watch - Are Steps Exercise?

Now that I’m a gym owner, my friends love to tell me their stories about health, fitness, and doctors. They run the gamut from funny to sad, light-hearted to serious. Today I’m sharing Stan's story. Stan (not his real name) had gone to his doctor for an annual exam. After being thoroughly poked, prodded, and quizzed, he listed his health concerns. The doctor listened carefully and replied, "What you need is exercise."

Stan came unglued! "Doc!" he said,"My work is exercise. We do everything by hand. Just this week, I hauled 300 squares of shingles up a ladder on my back. I get plenty of exercise." The doctor then said something that shocked him - and later caused him to tell me this story:

"That is not exercise; that's your work."

Stan thought the doctor was either making it up or simply wrong. Stan told me the story so that I would tell him that the doctor was off his game, but his doctor was absolutely right. Stan’s work day was not exercise for the same reason that housework, chasing after toddlers, and even gardening don't count as exercise: your body is adapted to it. We get used to the work we do day in and day out.

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made - Adaptation

Our bodies are fearfully, wonderfully-made, adaptable, biological machines. These wonderful machines optimize our movements and metabolism to minimize the energy needed for daily tasks. When our bodies have reduced our caloric needs to an absolute minimum, we are fully adapted to the activity. Those things that used to be exercise are no longer challenging. Where there is no challenge to our system, there is no exercise.

Worse than the slow burn itself is the way our bodies change to save calories. In order to burn fewer calories, our regular movements become restricted during daily work. That means that we use our muscles less, bend our joints less, and stretch less. Using less muscle strength burns fewer calories, but it also reduces the stability of our joints. To compensate for the loss of joint stability our bodies produce stress hormones to limit how far our joints can bend. Having frozen our joints, our bodies then reduce connective tissue since it is no longer needed to move. And so our muscles get weak, stress hormones go up, our joints get stiff, and connective tissues get thin.

No wonder we can’t just jump into a new routine at full speed without pain and likely injury! This is why most programs fail in the first few weeks. We need a program that builds our systems back up one step at a time. It takes patience and persistence with a good plan to begin to turn things around.

Active Play and Exploration to the Rescue!

Children naturally exercise as they learn to roll over, crawl, walk, and run. Everything is a challenge to them, and they are quick to move on to the next one. Given plenty of time and encouragement to do so, they will keep it up, learning to jump rope, climb trees, and keep a hula-hoop spinning. Their bodies are challenged to grow in size, strength, balance, and coordination given enough time and encouragement for active play and exploration.

Adults providing for family needs, devalue their own active play and exploration because of the time constraints of making money. We wind up either playing the odds hoping to get lucky genetically until we can squeeze in a fitness plan, or counting our steps through a regular day hoping that they add up to exercise. They don't.

Our bodies are adapted to those steps and are optimized to burn as little fuel as possible to get the steps in. And that’s why arguing with your smart watch is not reducing the size of your waist or improving your blood pressure.

Take Time for Fun!

Relax, that's the end of the bad news. The good news is that productive, active play doesn't have to take up much of our limited time as long as we plan for maximized intensity in the time we have. There are lots of fun ways to do that, but the easiest and most sustainable is to join a group fitness class 4 times a week. The key is in choosing one that you will stick with that gets you the results you are after.

So pick something that:

  • cycles through high and low intensity to keep your body from adapting,
  • is not longer than 60 minutes, but aim for 35-45 minutes,
  • has an upbeat, encouraging atmosphere, and a friendly culture,
  • has built-in ways to up your game when you are ready, and
  • is fun and challenging

We Make it Simple and Fun!

Workhorse Gym offers lots of options that fit these criteria; in fact, all of our classes fit this mold. We have lots of fun and we always deliver results. Adding “steps” won’t get you there, but adding the right sort of fun will start you on the path to more energy, more mobility, less pain, and a more vibrant life. Come in and see us to get a free consultation, a tour, and a healthy dose of hope!

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