By ramping up your fitness frequency you can start enjoying the benefits of better whole-body health.
Why should you care about fitness frequency? As Americans we spend waaaaay to much time sitting on our rumps, slumping with poor posture. This not only affects our strength, flexibility, and physical ability to move, but sitting – at work, commuting in the car, watching tv, and staring at your computer screen or other digital gadgets – is wearing the body out at a rate that might be affecting your lifespan too!
In a U.S News & World Report article, James Levine, an endocrinologist and researcher at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, addresses this idea of a lack of fitness frequency. And, while this article was written in 2012, I’m afraid conditions may be worse now than they were 5 years ago. Are we moving more, taking better care of our health? Or, are we struggling, battling diseases and chronic health challenges caused by inactivity and poor lifestyle choices?
“The human being is designed to move,” says Levine, “you need to move your body. If you stop your body, idle it—which sitting is—it crumbles on every level.” What can result is an increased risk of obesity, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, cancer, depression, and possibly Alzheimer’s disease,” says Levine.
Studies show that the average American sits for about eight hours a day. “Sitting is like a disease,” says Edward Phillips, assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School. “The goal is to avoid prolonged sitting and to add any kind of physical activity to your day.” Any movement you can do, even something as simple as tapping your feet, is a start, says Phillips.
From my perspective as a Pilates expert and functional movement specialist who spends a lot of my time with clients who are challenged with pain and chronic posture-related wear & tear injuries from lack of use and repetitive mis-use, we need fitness frequency executed with the best possible breathing, body alignment, and proper muscle firing patterns or we’re putting more stress on the body and increasing the risk of injury from our workouts.
There must be a good balance between fitness frequency, intensity, and healthy movement habits to enjoy the best possible health benefits from your efforts.
If you don’t realize that every time you do a squat, you’re rolling out on your feet, or twisting your hips to use one leg a little more than the other… and you do this over and over again (with or without weights for extra resistance) sooner or later your ankles, knee, hips, or back are going to bail out causing pain and potential injury. But, taking the time to focus on your form and learn how to find and use the right muscles from your feet, through your hips, core, and all the way up to your head, you can do lots of squats to stay fit and injury-free! This is just one example of using an exercise to benefit your health.
If what you’re doing hurts…it’s probably not something you should continue. But that doesn’t mean that there is NOTHING you can do safely to keep moving! You just might not know what you can do; or how to do it correctly. This is when seeking expert advice can make a huge difference in the results you’re getting with your fitness program to be confident that you CAN do more, and more often without risk of getting hurt.
It’s not all about having 6-pack abs, or a body-builder physique… If you want that, you’re going to really have to work for it. Fitness frequency, to me, means moving well on a daily basis to keep my body feeling good, staying strong, fit, and flexible so that I can enjoy sports and activities. This also allows me to do what I want, when I want, because my body will let me! It’s learning to take what I’m doing with my muscles and movements in my fitness workouts and applying them to all my daily life activities. So, when I sit, I’m sitting taller; when I climb stairs, I’m using my glutes and hamstrings more than my knees; when I carry laundry and groceries, I’m using my core; as I’m driving, I can be confident that my shoulders are relaxed instead of wrapped around my ears. I can easily bend down and pick something up, standing back up without throwing my back out! My feet don’t hurt so I can walk, jump, and jog. I practice fitness frequency so that as I continue to age, I’m not getting old – feeling old or forced to acting old because I’ve gotten lazy, or let the little aches and pains I had incapacitate me.
Yes, rest when you’re injured. Continue to do things that hurt? You will stay hurt! You might need a mental adjustment to help shift your focus and find things you can do that don’t hurt. Even if it’s not your “favorite” activity, it’s allowing you to move safely. In the end it’s going to be a good choice to help you up your fitness frequency and improve your whole-body health.
We will never be able to out-exercise our diet! And if you are sitting in a chair for 8 hours a day at work, then go home and watch tv for another 2-4 hours, sit for 1.5-3 hours a day for meals, and lie down to sleep for 7-8 hours a night, you’ve spent roughly 18.5 – 23 of the last 24 hours not moving! Even a 1-hour workout daily can’t completely offset this lack of physical movement. Get up and get moving!
What can you do to up your fitness frequency?
- Plan more moments of movement into your daily routine.
- Stand up, walk, squat, lunge, stretch your arms, legs, and torso, bend in all directions – forward, backwards, twist, and side bend.
- Start your day with 10-15 minutes of exercise.
- Take the stairs whenever possible.
- Park your car farther away and walk. When you get home, take a quick 10-15 min walk around the block before you go inside. Walk slow, walk fast, walk, walk, walk…
- Set an alarm to get up out of your chair at work and do at least 2-3 minutes of simple standing stretching and movement exercises every hour.
- Be conscious of your posture habits. Be sure they are good posture habits!
- Find a variety of physical activities and sports you enjoy. Do something daily to improve your cardio, strength, and flexibility! (keep in mind how many hours you’re not moving… be sure you’ve got lots of minutes build into your daily routine to be moving too!)
Unfortunately, younger and younger people are dealing with health issues that used to only challenge an older population. A big part of this is how much we’re NOT moving. Get inspired, get off your duff, and plan more minutes of fitness into your every day and weekly wellness routine. Move it or lose it! Use more minutes of movement to amp up your fitness frequency, improve your longevity, and help make a positively impact on your whole-body health.