Active living versus scheduled, routine exercise…which is optimal for longterm health and happiness? A discussion on whether you should strive for movement throughout the day or just stick with a scheduled workout.
Most Americans (and westernized cultures, in general) are sedentary.
We work desk jobs.
We have long commutes.
We take the elevators and escalators instead of the stairs.
We drive to run errands or pick up groceries.
We hire people to clean our houses and do our landscaping.
We take full advantage of the automation and convenience around us.
But the truth is, humans are MEANT to be active. In fact, our bodies (and minds!) thrive when we are doing physical things…whether that’s a walk outside, shoveling snow, or weight lifting at the gym.
However, in today’s day and age, we as a society have moved away from the active lifestyles of the past (even as recent as the early 20th century!) and have adopted inactive habits with maybe a little bit of scheduled exercise here and there, if we’re lucky.
Most people who claim they “exercise” go to the gym or workout for 1-2 hours a day a few times a week, but spend the rest of their time generally stationary, desk-bound, and rather….idle.
A lot of us even struggle to fit in those few scheduled workouts per week that we “aim” for. And when we don’t meet those exercise goals we set, we feel discouraged and fall into an all or nothing attitude surround fitness. This leads to people being very inconsistent with exercise or even giving it up all together because they feel they can’t maintain a strict routine.
But…what if I told you that taking small steps (no pun intended) to live a more active life overall is better for you long-term than hitting the gym for a one-off, intense session a few days a week?
Would that make you think differently about physical fitness?
Active Living > Exercise
The truth is…it’s possible to be fit (whatever your definition of that is) without doing structured, scheduled workouts as your means of activity. In fact, striving to live a more active life overall is will keep you healthier and more fit than just one hour of exercise each day.
The trap that people tend to fall in is that they’ll spend an hour or two at the gym doing cardio (maybe some weight lifting) get in their 10k step goal for the day and then spend the other majority of their waking hours on the couch, at their work desk, sitting in a car, or otherwise being mostly sedentary. In effect, that 1 or 2 hours of scheduled exercise is pretty much negated from all the sitting.
The alternative is (the way of life that I am personally an advocate for) active living!
What Exactly is Active Living?
Essentially, active living is: A way of life in which physical, social, mental, emotional and spiritual activities are valued and are integrated into daily living.
In this post, we are obviously focusing on the “physical” aspect of active living…but when you think about it, taking an “active” role in every part of your life is a great thing to strive for.
How I Live Actively
Over the years, I’ve personally moved away from formal exercise and closer to an active living mindset. I find that I unplanned activity and joyful movement are my favorite ways to move my body and stay fit. My days of spending an hour on a cardio machine just to “exercise” are long in the past. Now, I opt for movement that makes me feel good mentally and physically.
Sometimes active living looks like trying out a new fitness class with my mom and sometimes it means walking to the grocery store to pick up food for the week.
Sometimes it means biking to my dentist appointment and other times it means going for a run because I need some alone time with my thoughts.
Sometimes active living means going for a hike in a new city I’m visiting and other times it means grabbing coffee with a friend and going for a walk on a sunny day.
Whatever my “activity” looks like for the day…it is done with the intention of enjoyment and fun…not obligation or requirement.
Some Easy Ways to LIVE ACTIVELY…
- take the stairs instead elevators or escalators
- use a standing desk to work (some companies will even provide these for you free of charge if you request one!)
- park farther away from your destination
- use half of your lunch break to take a walk
- bike to the grocery store or to run errands
- walk around or pace while taking phone calls
- walk places that you would usually drive to
- garden and do you own landscaping instead of hiring a service
- plow or shovel your own driveway instead of hiring a service
- go sledding (climbing back up the hill after each run is great for building cardiovascular strength!)
- try a new sport
- take a walking or biking tour of your city to explore places you’ve never been or seen before
- walk your dog instead of hiring a dog walker
- cleaning your apartment or house
- having a solo dance party
- stretching at your work station
- take advantage of “Walk to Work Day” or “Bike to Work Day”
- take part in active play with your children…playgrounds can be for adults too!
- maybe a bit extreme but….sell your car! ?
Do you do scheduled exercise or strive for active living?
What are some ways you embrace active living?
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