Exercise is important to keep our bodies fit and healthy. We all know this. We are told this every day in many different ways.
What is exercise? Exercise is sweating, burning muscles, pumping heart, gasping breath. It will help you lose weight and keep you fit. At least that is what exercise has always been in my head. Exercise requires a plan, specific equipment and a ridiculous amount of time to complete. There’s the getting ready part- finding a gym, purchasing a membership, getting the right gym wear and last but not least working out when on earth you are going to find the time to actually go there. At least, that has been my experience.
In our busy, technologically enhanced lives we are spending much more time sitting and less time on the incidental exercise that used to come about just as a byproduct of living. We don’t have to get up to change the channel on the television, we can use the remote; we don’t have to chop wood for the fireplace, we can turn on the central heating; we don’t have to carry a heavy laundry basket outside to the line, we can put it straight into the dryer.
Many of our jobs now involve sitting at a desk for 8 hours every day. Our health has been affected as a result, at least mine certainly was. When I moved away from an active job which involved being on my feet most of the day and into an administrator position where I sit in front of the computer for 80% of the time, I found my fitness was definitely affected. I’m not advocating a return to the hard physical life of the past but it is something we need to be aware of.
I tried so many things that were supposed to solve my problem. I joined one of those 30 minute exercise places once. You know the ones, where they tell you it’s only 30 minutes 3 times a week. Didn’t sound too hard, I could do that. Well actually, it was at least an hour and a half each time I went. Working out what to do with the children, getting there, getting home, showering afterwards and the part they don’t actually tell you about- the stretching.
I happily went along for my first session, did my 30 minutes and then discovered that I was supposed to spend another 10-15 minutes stretching my muscles at the end. What the? What happened to 30 minutes? It was now 45! I did my 45 minutes a couple of times and then one day I didn’t. I missed the stretching part and went straight home. I didn’t have time for that. It was supposed to be only 30 minutes after all. BIG MISTAKE! Ever felt like you have been hit by a truck after using muscles you don’t normally use? Shovelled some dirt or snow and woken up the next day unable to lift your arms above your head? Well, that was me. I was so stiff I could barely function.
I figured that this exercise thing just wasn’t for me. I just didn’t have the time to devote 1 1/2 – 2 hours on myself 3 or more times a week on something that made me feel worse. My life was so full of working, running children to piano lessons, ballet classes, football training, cooking, cleaning, managing the finances, you get the picture. I had the gym membership and every week when I found an excuse not to use it, I felt guilty. I thought having the membership would make me happy and slim. It seemed that you actually had to use it for that to happen. Who would have thought?
I think that if I had actually enjoyed what I was doing while I was at the gym it might have been a different matter. I have friends who love that kind of thing and therefore make it a priority in their lives. Frankly, I’d rather stab a fork in my eye.
What if I could get some exercise without actually trying? I began to think about the things I actually enjoyed doing. I loved taking the kids and the dog to the beach. My daughter and I loved the water slides at the local pool. The whole family enjoyed bushwalking on a weekend. I wondered whether any of that could legitimately be called exercising. Considering how my leg muscles felt the day after climbing all of those steps to the top of the waterslide, perhaps they could. Maybe my definition of exercise just needed reworking.
It was then that I began to come up with a solution. I would find ways to include movement as a part of my everyday life with my family. I wouldn’t think of it as ‘exercising’. If I did that, I’m sure I would have found an excuse not to do it. We would endeavour to have fun and if that involved moving my body, then all the better.