Many of the things we do every day, we do out of routine in one way or another – a choreography we have practiced for years. Our brains just work more efficiently when they can outsource tasks to their central regions so that we don’t have to think consciously about every step we take.
These optimizations make us more reactive/responsive (e.g., walking or running away) and help us to refine routines to a minuscular degree (e.g., putting contact lenses in). On the other hand, this repetitive-behavior-based system can lead us astray when we have practiced something incorrectly and later try to change it (e.g., slouching all our lives, wanting to change to better posture). It takes a lot of mental work to constantly remind ourselves to stand/sit up straight and pull in our tummy.
Even worse, it’s not only our brain playing this game but our whole body when we are inactive or maintain a bad posture. Our sinews shrink, our muscles deteriorate, our bone mass reduces, and the worst, fat gets stored.
A new Hope
If all this sounds demotivating, rest assured that we are on the right course. Already, the fact that we have started biking more, taking the stairs rather than escalators, or just going that extra mile (literally) means that we’re headed in the right direction to increase our mobility for good (read the precursive article).
I guess that deep down we all want to be more active and look better. This is caused by our continual bombardment with images of beautiful people everywhere we look or go. But what is often forgotten is that being more active also makes us feel more awake, lets us concentrate better and makes us happier. If you haven’t exercised in years, this may not happen the first time, but that will change quickly.
Gettin’ it goin’
As always, we will ramp things up slowly. Start with a ten-minute program, first thing in the morning or right after work/school, every weekday. Check out these three articles (a fourth one to come) on essential exercises linked below. Choose one to focus on each day and do every exercise for at least one set of ten repetitions. If the ten minutes aren’t up yet, start over.
The exercises are designed to be done anywhere – no special equipment or setup is needed. This sets us free from having to go to the gym (which might be an obstacle). It literally enables us to do them anywhere we choose: at home, on vacation, at work or in the park (this isn’t an exhaustive list). Being able to do exercise anywhere also rids us of one more barrier – having to go somewhere!
The brevity of the exercise programs is another advantage that rids us of excuses! TV ad breaks, for example, are a perfect time to slip in some exercises, saving you from watching ads as a bonus.
These exercises can and should be extended as you improve. I, for instance, do them and many more for a complete and more intensive workout three times a week for an hour each time. As soon as you can see progress, and you will, you can increase the time slowly – by as little as a minute each week.
The exercises should be seen as your first step into sports. All of you must have done some sport in your lifetime. If you liked it, think back, and decide whether you’d like to give it another try. Sport is all about fun: if you don’t enjoy it, don’t do it (except at the beginning … every start is hard 🙂 ).
Ask friends what exercise they do, and join them or, if not, find something you can do together with your buddies. Check on the internet whether there are any local organized sports groups – hosted by clubs, your town or the local university. Many activities are for free!
Let me know about your progress in the comments. I would also be interested in how you’re getting more physically active.