Disclaimer – this article is written for those that are less ‘fitness oriented’. It’s for those who, despite setting them as goals, don’t really care about the amount of weight they can lift, how fast or far they can run or what their Vo2max is. If that’s you, read-on for a positive message about what more movement can do for you without so much focus on performance or ‘fitness’.
2021 might be your year to start framing your activity as improving your health, rather than improving your fitness. In a world full of celebrities, influencers and the like, it’s easy to be distracted by, and substitute our major focus on getting fit, losing weight or improving performance rather than improving health.
For the purposes of this post, I’d also like to point out that health not only encompasses how ‘fresh’ or ‘alert’ you feel or how much energy you have to ‘get through your day’, but more importantly a decrease in risk of disease, the possibility of a longer life, the likelihood of increased independence, of being able to look after yourself further into your old age.
At this stage I would like to pose a question. If you had the choice between:
- staying as you are (size, shape, lifestyle) and living a longer life with less disease and greater function and independence into your golden years, or
- getting fit/losing weight/improving performance at the cost of being significantly less healthy, at higher risk of disease and most likely living a shorter life with less ability to function and look after yourself as you age,
…which of the 2 options would you pick?
Those who choose option a) value the health benefits a more active lifestyle delivers. Those who would choose option b) obviously value looks and performance greater than their health. If you’ve chosen a), and your past fitness goals have revolved around weight loss, looks or performance, then there’s an obvious mismatch and it’s not surprising that your motivation has waned in the past!
You might think I’m being a little dire in my assumptions that a lower activity lifestyle can result in greater personal disease, decreased function and independence but I’m really not. Living a generally sedentary lifestyle with a decreased focus on healthy movement and nutrition can have a compounding negative effect over your lifespan.
Metabolic syndrome has been developing as a concept since the early 1900’s and is defined by a grouping of interconnected physiological, biochemical, clinical and metabolic factors that have a direct, and negative effect, on cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and all-cause mortality (Grundy 2005, Wilson 2005). The signs/symptoms held under this banner include abdominal fat, elevated triglycerides, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, pro-inflammatory state and increased blood clot risk; all very common conditions within society that signify a state of low-grade, chronic inflammation with profound effects; greater disease, decreased life span and decreased independence into old age.
If you really sit and think about what this means, it’s more than a little worrying. You may even recognise a few of the above conditions as ones you’re dealing with already. The good news is that no matter where you are in life, or how many of the above conditions you’re currently dealing with, movement and exercise can help…..
Please note I did not say ‘getting fit’ can help…..stuff getting fit….your answer is to move more. Let’s take a very brief journey through some of the above conditions (and more) and how movement and exercise can have a positive effect:
Increased calorie burn
You should never try to out-exercise a bad diet, that a recipe for over-training, but you can’t escape the fact that moving more burns more calories than sitting on your bum. Greater calorie burn is a start in combating abdominal fat and general obesity.
Physical exercise has been shown to reduce insulin resistance regardless of BMI…yes you read that right. You don’t even have to lose weight to start seeing the benefits of exercise!
Decreased risk of development AND improvements in current blood pressure readings if already increased.
Physically inactive people have a significantly elevated stroke risk. Regular exercise has been associated with over 30% reduction in stroke risk regardless of gender.
Cancers are a very complicated group, however improvements in associated risk factors of cancer are generally gained from healthy changes in lifestyle and have huge positive effects on risk of developing certain cancers. These associated risk factors include poor nutrition, obesity, inflammation and physical inactivity.
Not only can exercise have a direct positive impact on depressive symptoms, but the resultant improvements in symptoms then show a positive effect on further adherence to both medical treatments and health-related quality of life.
Even low-moderate levels of exercise show a significant protective effect against cognitive decline. High levels of physical fitness are associated with greater gray matter volume (brain mass) and a reduction in age related neuron loss.
The overarching message is simple…..
- Get clear on your goals – if it’s being healthier, lose the focus on fitness, on weight lifted, distance run, your 5km time, your flexibility or your VO2max.
- Don’t complicate things – just move more. Structured training has its place, but if it involves you doing activities you dislike, then it becomes a barrier to consistency and healthy habits.
- Move in ways that make you happy – There’s so many options for moving more; walking – pavement, oceanside, hiking/bushwalking, treadmill, running – see previous walking options ;); ride a bike – road, path or mountain; go for a swim; surf; paddle; play a social sports like tennis, golf, volleyball etc; hit the gym.
- Be consistent with moving more – it can be a large combination of different things or just a couple, stick to what you enjoy so you’re more likely to keep it up!
- Have fun – it’s ok to have fun with movement and exercise, to pick things you like and push yourself to a level that you are comfortable with. It doesn’t have to look a certain way, be a certain thing or feel like a certain level of hurt.
- It’s not about anyone else, it just has to work for you!
Here at KineticsCorrect, we structure all our PT sessions around our individual clients. Not everyone likes certain resistance exercises, cardio machines or movements and we’re cool with that. We’re here for you and to improve your health and life, so let’s get to it!
Grundy, SM, Cleeman, JI, Daniels, SR, et al. (2005). Diagnosis and management of the metabolic syndrome: an American Heart Association/National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute scientific statement. Circulation, 112(17):2735–2752.
McKinney, J, Lithwick, DJ, Morrison, BN, Nazzari, H, Isserow, SH, Heilbron, B, and Krahn, AD. (2016). The health benefits of physical activity and cardiorespiratory fitness. BC Medical Journal, 58 (3).
Wilson PWF, D’Agostino RB, Parise H, Sullivan L, Meigs JB. (2005). Metabolic syndrome as a precursor of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes mellitus. Circulation, 112(20):3066–3072.