If I told you there was a pill that could improve your mood, extend your lifespan by a decade, and reduce your chance of dying from any cause, you’d take it, right? Of course you would. Now, when I tell you that “pill” is exercise – which is proven to confer all these benefits and more – do you still take it? Of course most of us say yes, but the stats don’t lie – Americans are more inactive than ever. Just a mind-boggling 10% of Americans exercise regularly.
Why? There’s lots of easy targets to blame: car-based infrastructure, digital devices, poor diets, sedentary work, etc., etc. But I think the problem is simpler than all that. Are you ready? Brace yourselves.
It’s exercise’s fault. Before your head explodes, hear me out.
The concept of exercise – a specific task performed with the intention of increasing physical fitness – is not a new phenomenon. But for millennia it was a special discipline, the province of soldiers, athletes, and performance artists – people who needed to be exceptionally fit to perform their roles. For everyone else, simply going about their daily lives was enough to provide an adequate amount of movement to maintain their basic health. With the advent of industrialization, however, the link between movement and health was severed. In response, countries like the US tried to “mainstream” the special discipline of exercise by touting its benefits, promising it will help you “look good” and “feel better.” Again, the stats don’t lie. This hasn’t worked and the reason should be plainly obvious: Exercise isn’t fun. It’s hard. It takes discipline, commitment, and specialized knowledge of the body. Even those who do exercise would probably rather not. I can tell you without a doubt that I, as a lifelong athlete, don’t want to exercise. I do it because my goals require it. However, if you have the option to move, but don’t really need to, why on earth would you choose the unnatural, difficult, and largely unnecessary discipline of exercise? That’s right, you wouldn’t. And yet, that’s the main alternative to sedentary living prescribed for so many. We shouldn’t be surprised when they say “No thanks.” So what can be done?
At PK Move, part of our mission is to re-frame this problem. It isn’t a lack of exercise causing our widespread health decline. It’s lack of movement. The science is backing this up. What we’re now discovering is that short, but frequent, bouts of simple activities, such as getting up and walking around for a few minutes, can deliver many of the same benefits as rigorous, disciplined exercise. It may not be as dramatic, and you might never become “shredded”, whatever that’s worth, but you will enjoy the same mental, emotional, and physical benefits as the gym rat, without having to sign up for any memberships.
This makes perfect sense. No other animal exercises and yet they remain active and healthy throughout their lives (unless they live with a sedentary human). How? It’s simple. They play. They wrestle each other, they run around “for no reason”, and they stretch for a few seconds here and there dozens of times a day. It all adds up to a fitness routine on par with a seasoned athlete. And you know what? We all used to play too. Try to think back to when you were two or three years old. What exercises did you do? None. But you were curious. You wanted to walk around, look at things, try to climb on them, figure out how to get down, etc. This was enough to build the strength and skills you’d need to navigate life, all without having to do a single push up. If it worked then, why not now?
PK Silver, our parkour + falls prevention program for older adults, takes this play-based approach to fitness. Yes, there are still exercises that we do, but they are woven into the wider fabric of movement itself – more concerned with how the body reacts to situations as opposed to how it “looks.” Yes, we still try to dispense some of that “specialized body knowledge” so our students can learn to take care of themselves, but we do so using games and skills rather than a bazillion reps of this or that exercise. It’s about movement for its own sake, creating strength through play, like we’re designed to do naturally.
If you’d like to try out a free class over Zoom and discover how to have fun with movement right there in your living room, drop us a message and we’ll hook you up! Come play!