Simple Sunday: exercise

by Frank Martin

Simple Sunday is a weekly column of suggested ways to simplify various aspects of daily life.
Almost everyone makes regular exercise a new year’s resolution. Its so common its actually become stereotypical. Everyone makes it, and most people let it slide after a month or less, myself included, until recently. This week I thought I’d share how I went about making exercise a permanent habit instead of a failed new year’s resolution:
1 Stop seeing exercise in isolation: Most Americans seem to see exercise in isolation from the rest of life, in a physical and philosophical sense. We go to the gym, and we do it to get strong or “in shape.” Instead of looking at exercise as an activity in isolation, or as an item on the daily to-do list, try seeing it as integral to life as a whole. I’ve practiced yoga since my junior year of college and am in the midst of yoga teacher training not just to get in shape, but because its also part of my spiritual life, and I just flat out enjoy practice for its own sake. I go for walks with friends/family and alone not just for the exercise but because I enjoy being out in the world, and the social contact.
2 Body weight is your friend: You don’t need a gym membership or tons of equipment whose destiny is inevitably to become a clothes hanger if you want to get in shape. All you really need is your body. There’s a reason stuff like push ups, sit-ups. and pull-ups/chin-ups continue to be a staple of military basic training around the world: they’re a GREAT workout. Sure you aren’t going to get buff, but you will be fit.

3 Invest in a pull up bar: Put it in a doorway you pass through frequently during the course of a typical day, and hop up to crank out a few pull-ups or chin-ups whenever you walk through (assuming you aren’t, you know, carrying anything).

4 Go car free or car light: In addition to being good for the environment, trading out your car for a bicycle, razor type scooter, or your own feet can be a great exercise. Sure you might not be breaking a sweat, but with how sedentary we’ve become over the past sixty or so years, we should all be looking for more opportunities to get active.

5 Look for ways to integrate physical activity into daily life: Related to items four and one. It should be noted that the current elder generation of Okinawa have never set foot in a gym in their lives, and are living into their 90’s or even 100’s healthily, actively, and independently. Instead of going to the gym, they lead active lifestyles. Try taking a page out of their playbook and take up a habit like gardening, learn to do basic home maintenance/repair (or for the truly brave, full on remodeling), house cleaning, and other similar activity.

Reading through this list, it becomes obvious that none of this is going to turn you into Arnold.  Maybe that’s a good thing, maybe not. Either way, look for an article sometime in the future addressing an alternate (one might argue healthier) way to look at exercise.