Friday, September 26, 2008

Why we exercise

I'm sitting in a coffee shop across from a MASSIVE health club, and as I watch the people scurry in and out of this gigantic big-box style fitness chain, I can't help but wonder..If exercise didn't work, would we still do it?

Put another way - if there was absolutely no physiological reward to weight training or structured exercise (like cardio or fitness classes) I doubt any of us would even bother...

Sure, we've learned to enjoy exercise, but I think that the root of this enjoyment is knowing (or thinking) we are doing something that is healthy, and that it will improve the way we look and feel.

In fact I am hard pressed to think of any form of structured exercise that is not 'end result' oriented.

I can only think of two things we do for no reward..

We walk - because humans wonder by nature. Throw a bunch of grade school kids into a field and see what happens...they just wonder off, exploring things or sometimes just walking for the sake of walking.

And we dance (if we're not too self-conscious). Throw a bunch of children into a gymnasium, turn on some music and watch what happens.

From watching my daughter I beleive that wondering aimlessly combined with dancing and unstructured play is the root of our innate calorie burning abiltity...Everything else is a learned skill.

Based on this I am starting to think that many of us would benefit from limiting our weight training and structured cardio to the MINUMUM we need to get the effect we desire, and then fill the rest of our time with walking, and unstructured play...

The bottom line - I think walking around your neighborhood is far better for you then walking inside on a treadmill...and most forms of dancing are probably just as good as interval training, if not better.

I still love weight training, but I think we should be striving to get the best returns from the least amount of work, rather than just working out as much as possible and hoping we hit our target.

Balance is the new healthy


PS- Here is a great story about a trainer who experimented with Eat Stop Eat for one can read about her results HERE

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donny said...

Interval training fits in perfectly with all that, though...

remember running up a hill with a toboggan, zipping down and doing it again? Or in the summer, running up the same hill, then rolling down?

Brad Pilon said...

Hi Donny

Good thought...You also reminded me of red rover..another perfect example of unstructured interval training.


Adam Steer said...

Amen Brad!

Conventional fitness paradigms are still stuck in the "More is Better" - "No pain no gain" mentalities. But slowly I am seeing a new message creep into the fitness industry, and it applies as much to food as it does to exercise. Let's keep spreading the word... "More is not Better, Better is Better!"


Mary said...

I have been thinking about this a lot lately. When I was a kid I would spend hours in the pool and never swim a single lap. And I RAN to and from the pool, just like I ran (or rode my 3 speed bike) everywhere else. It never once occurred to me that I NEEDED to be burning fat, or building muscle, or whatever. But I was a pretty trim, powerful little kid. And I would go hours without eating, because I just didn't have the time to stop playing.

Then when puberty hit...all deals were off. Those insidious little "you are fat" voices that seem to find every teenage girl sooner or later just wouldn't leave me alone. And the media's barrage of the endless photos of skinny girls with straight gorgeous hair did nothing to dispel those lies. And that's when the lifelong struggle with weight began.

I am slowly reprogramming and ignoring the voices, and learning how to play again while eating sensibly. IF is really helping me with that, just to get some perspective on what I eat and why I eat it. Thanks for a great blog and excellent, thoughtful articles.

Anonymous said...

What about sports? Plenty of people would still get together to play sports without physiological benefit.

Brad Pilon said...

Hi Anon,

I was on the fence about sports. Some of us play sports for the pure joy and fun, but others play with a purpose...the amount of people that play sports to "get in shape" is staggering.

But nonetheless you've got a point..sports fit the theory.


Christoph Dollis said...

lol "wander"

Great post, by the way.