An Exercise in Activity

An Exercise in Activity

"Eating alone is not enough for health. There must be exercise . . . If there is any deficiency in food or exercise, the body will fall sick." Hippocrates--500 BC We do it everyday in trains, planes and automobiles..

We do it everyday in trains, planes and automobiles. We sit at school and we sit at work. We sit when we eat, read, watch TV, play video games or surf the Net.

But sitting for long periods when you’re well is counterproductive to good health. Our joints and lower back stiffen, circulation is impaired and metabolic waste slowly pools up, causing fatigue and chronic pain.

Sedentary living adds to our burden of stress. Prolonged inactivity destroys the immune system, robs the body of vital capacity and greatly reduces human motivation. But when you fight the urge to do nothing and move your body, something wonderful happens.

Physical activity ventilates adrenalin and cortisol. Instead of retaining these powerful “fight or flight” hormones inside, which allows them to oxidize and age your brain, you can direct them into a symphony of motion and vitality. Getting physical keeps you in touch with your inner athlete, that part of you hiding in your DNA. It’s there, whether you recognize it or not.

If you want to remain lean for life you must follow a program that keeps up your basal metabolic rate (BMR). Basal metabolism is the minimum amount of energy your body expends to maintain vital processes like respiration, circulation and digestion. Sitting will sabotage your fat-burning potential. Your thyroid will adapt by adjusting your internal thermostat and turn you into a fat-storing machine. So will eating too many carbohydrates.

Inactivity also accelerates loss of lean mass and cardiac function. You lose what you do not use. After age 20, you start losing vibrant, fat-burning, energy-rich muscle. Strength, stamina and bone density decrease as blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides increase. Many adults get heavier as they age and complain of fatigue, chronic pain and stress. It’s not because they exercise too much and under eat! The simple truth is that our bodies are meant to move.

Until recently, if you didn’t farm, fish, hunt or gather, you didn’t eat. You had to expend calories to get calories. That’s balance. Today we can simply order in or drive through. Of course our original diet consisted of organic, unrefined whole food loaded with micronutrients. That’s quality. Now what we call “food” is chemically produced, genetically engineered, highly refined, packed with added salt, sugar and fat and extremely low in micronutrients.

Energy is created through the displacement of energy. Protein, food partitioning, spicy food and physical activity all raise body heat, which helps to oxidize and burn stored body fat. Controlled exercise and physical activity compensate for the otherwise effortless 21st century lifestyle.

Can You See the Difference?

Most people do not understand what exercise is. Going for a walk isn’t exercise. Neither are golfing, gardening, hiking, dancing or any sport. These are all examples of physical activity, but they are not exercise. Here’s the difference, and it’s a major one.

Physical activity refers to any expenditure of energy brought about by bodily movement through the contraction of skeletal muscles. This includes a complete spectrum of activity, ranging from very low resting levels to maximum exertion.

For example, walking is therapeutic but it will not prevent the atrophy of muscle observed in men and women as they age (sarcopenia). It’s also not strenuous enough to release growth hormone or elevate testosterone. These two powerful hormones decline with age, but they are needed to prevent muscles from atrophying. Only strenuous activity elevates the levels.

Exercise is a component of physical activity. Exercise develops muscle strength and endurance, aerobic capacity and flexibility. Exercise combined with an optimum diet and dietary supplements develops an ideal body composition, greater tolerance to stress and improved resistance to disease and infection. Together, these are referred to as fitness. It’s recognized as a functional gauge for health and performance.

Exercise is the means; physical activity is the end. You strengthen and condition your body so you can use your body in freedom according to its natural design. If you don’t, it falls apart. When performed correctly and consistently, exercise will give you total physical fitness. But fitness cannot occur without resistance training, aerobic conditioning and stretching. No single sport or physical activity provides total physical fitness.

Athletes at every level supplement their sport with additional weight training. Strength training targets every muscle and keeps your anabolic (promoting tissue growth) drive alive, but you still need to stretch to retain the flexibility of youth and perform some form of continuous aerobic activity for your heart, lungs and arteries. Why don’t they just practice and play the game? It’s because they can gain an extra edge by developing more strength, more flexibility and more aerobic power. Exercise also prevents injuries.

No job-no matter how physically demanding–can give you total physical fitness or the balance and symmetry achieved through exercise management. The body will only develop as much as it needs to complete the task. Once it has adapted, it will never go beyond that standard.

So in the same way you eat, sleep, breathe and work, you can make time for something that can raise your performance standards, immune function and appearance to a level not possible without training. And you can do it in five hours or less per week. Don’t expect to keep your youthful shape without paying the price.

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