When I was a child, exercise was never a planned activity.
My friends wouldn’t call me up and say, “Man, spelling class was a real bear today. Mrs. Hammond was riding me all through the adjectives. Let’s hit the gym, I need a good workout to blow off some steam.”
We would just go to the park and play ball, ride our bikes to get where we needed to go, or spend hours hiking through the woods with no particular destination in mind. Sometimes we were like cats, sitting perfectly still in the sunshine, then–BAM!–we took off running across the playground.
There was no need to change into our workout clothes, mix up a playlist on our Sony Walkman, and grab a bottle of electrolyte-enhanced water from the hip urban organic market on the way to the trendy gym or yoga studio.
For many of us, as we get older, exercise stops being part of our daily fun, and becomes another activity scheduled into an over-booked schedule.
We spend much of our lives chained to a desk or sitting in a train or car as we commute to work. We start to schedule trips to the gym because we know that if we don’t, we will become overweight and die early.
According to the CDC, more than one-third of adults in the U.S. did not get enough aerobic physical activity and 23% had no leisure-time physical activity in the previous month. Even more concerning, a new study shows that men who have sedentary lives (e.g. driving or riding in a car, or spending much time on the couch) have an increased risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. Scheduled exercise does help reduce that risk, but it’s clear that sitting around on our butts is only preparing us for our final savasana (corpse pose).
Exercise at the gym or yoga studio is good, but it’s time to bring the physical play back into our lives. Here are a few of my favorites. Start there or make up your own. Most of all, don’t think too much, just play.
- Walk more. Get off your bus early, or walk to the next stop when the bus is still fifteen minutes away. Find a way to do your errands on foot; backpacks are a great way to carry things. Build some time in your schedule to wander around rather than always making a bee-line to the couch.
- Bring back the joy of riding a bike. Sure, commuting to work by bike is great, but how about just hopping on your bike and zipping around town. Bring some snacks and a camera and you can find some adventure along the way.
- Break up your work day with yoga. Every hour, walk away from your desk and do some yoga poses. Better yet, organize a daily half hour yoga break at work. If you are unsure where to start, find a yoga teacher who is available to come to your office and lead a session.
- Sit on a bench in the sun with some friends until you get the urge to run wildly in multiple directions for no reason at all.
- Try comedy improvisation. This is often a very physical activity, with the added bonus of laughing hysterically at others, and yourself.
Photo: Learn NC