In the past decade, the progressive sectors of medical community and media have put strong effort into promoting exercise and diet as keys to reducing weight, developing muscle tone and cardio-vascular health. I applaud their work, along with the fitness industries campaign to educate the general population on the effectiveness of exercise in weight management.
I am concerned however, that exercise is still viewed as an optional aspect of our lives. We still perceive exercise and planned physical activity as something you do to reach a particular health-fitness goal. This take on exercise may have held true forty years ago, but it’s usefulness needs to be evaluated in light of today’s socio-economic reality.
Prior to the firm establishment of the information age in America, most of our population would engage in physical activity almost daily. This would occur in both work and play. The adult population involved in manual labor in factories, civil service, agriculture and the like spent a significant number of hours each day walking, lifting, pushing, pulling twisting and tossing. These are all primary movements of human anatomy and the core of the specialized routines that we call exercise.
As I child, I can remember spending hours playing on the street, backyards and parks of my neighborhood of Hollis, New York. Television was for evenings and late fall/winter entertainment.
As we gradually moved into an information economy and a virtual society, this kind of natural workout for adults and children has been decreasing exponentially with each decade. Virtual reality has taken over as recreation of choice for a most of our children. And we have learned to let our fingers do the walking, while we sit at our desk, in front of a computer terminal. Thus we find ourselves now with an obesity epidemic never seen before in this country or in any country in the world. It’s time to rethink how we present the idea of physical activity.
Human beings, although we hate to admit it, are animals. We share the same basic cellular and systemic form with most mammals in the animal kingdom. One of the obvious characteristics that distinguishes animals from the plant kingdom is mobility. The ability to move upon the earth. Movement is not some bonus that is optional for those who want to lose a few pounds or develop athletic ability. Movement, activity is vital to who we are as a life form.
There are two things we naturally look for to determine if someone or something is alive; movement and breathing. You can add heartbeat if you like, but it all boils down to movement. Breathing and heartbeat/pulse are the result of autonomic movement and are increased by increase body movement. When someone around us shows no sign of movement for too long, we become concerned and check their vital signs. Our ability to survive (obtain food, clothing, shelter) is directly and subconsciously linked to movement through approach and avoidance.
Exercise is not an option folks. Your primal, subconscious survival mind demands it. Resistance is futile. If you don’t move, you will lose. Let’s start calling a spade a spade. Movement enhances life, Stagnancy ushers in death. There is no option for those who want to not only survive, but thrive.
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