Updated: Aug 11, 2020
Sitting at a desk. Lounging in bed. Watching TV on the couch. Maybe now more than ever this is the reality of millions across the world. While this does ring especially true now, it is probably just as accurate pandemic-aside.
The dangers of inactivity, and just general lack of movement, can play a significant negative effect on your health and wellness, especially as you age. Your metabolism slows down, muscles fire at a lower rate, and both your brain and your body become accustomed to a very sedentary lifestyle. Sooner rather than later you will notice that the flight of stairs, or the walk to the metro, have become significantly more difficult than you ever thought they could be.
WHAT DOES “ACTIVITY” MEAN?
Like with anything else, it depends. It’s all relative to your current fitness level, age, and how often you devote time to structured exercise.
If you’re working out 5-7 days/week, then you’re getting most of the necessary activity you need from your structured (presumably in the gym) workouts. While going outside and getting some sun and fresh air once a week would still do you some good, your body and brain are receiving sufficient stimulus to keep everything firing at an optimal capacity.
Most people, however, are getting structured workouts anywhere from 1-3 times/week, which is great, and in a lot of ways, all that’s needed. We’re looking at the non-gym time here, the other 165-167 hours in the week. The “activity”, or lack thereof, in the other 160-something hours is what can have a larger impact than you are giving it credit for.
OK, SO WHAT SHOULD I DO?
Your brain sends signals throughout your body, there are receptors who receive these signals and then work with your muscles to produce movement. Outside of the required tasks of the day (walking/driving to work, raising children, etc.), if you are not sending signals to your body, then the pathways and the muscles they lead to become dormant.
What to do? Use your body to ensure these signals stay flowing all over the place! A walk down a local trail, 10 minutes on a stationary bike/rower at home, a pickup game of badminton, even gardening. Whatever it is, it doesn’t matter, as long as you keep moving.
Unless your goal is to be an exceptionally proficient weightlifter, then there’s no reason your exercise should either be in the gym or nothing at all. Remember, a consistent 15-minute activity outweighs an inconsistent 60-minute activity. Your body learns patterns and improves its biomechanics by repetition, just like anything else. So the best way to engage it is to use it in ways besides just walking to Starbucks.
IT ALL TIES TOGETHER
Your body doesn’t know location or geography. It can’t tell if you’re standing at home, in the gym, or in the middle of the Sahara; your body and its muscles only perceive the task you ask it to do and the stimulus it provides.
That being said, it’s not as if working out in the gym only makes you better at working out in the gym. It’s not as if ballroom dancing only makes you better at ballroom dancing. Yes, that will be the most immediate and obvious effect, but they all tie together, they both can help each other. Strength training will provide you with the rigidity and stability required in ballroom dancing. Ballroom dancing will aid with your body’s ability to learn new movement patterns and improve balance/cognitive function.
Individuals have realized more strength gains under two conditions; either they spend 4-6 days/week in the gym, or they engage in some sort of other activity on their own. By strengthening your body’s signaling capabilities, you are giving yourself a better chance at getting the most you can out of every workout.
Someone says the word “workout” and most immediately think of a gym. While that can, and in a lot of ways, should be a place where you get some of your workouts in, it likely won’t be where you love to go. So engage in something you do enjoy and don’t worry about how many calories you’re burning. You may be getting more out of it than you realize, and it can ultimately help shape the physique, and provide the health benefits you’ve been after.