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FITNESS Exercise without knowing it

Need to pop to the shops for bread? Take the bike instead of the car.

Too time-strapped to exercise?

Here’s an old solution to a new problem

Personal trainer
Paul O'Brien

The way it was
Up to a few years back, the recommended exercise guidelines from sources like the World Health Organisation and the American Heart Association all stated that healthy adults should be getting an hour of exercise five or six days of the week. This level of exercise was necessary to maintain good health and stave off illness.
The exercise should be generally continuous in nature and consist of mostly aerobic exercise (running, jogging, cycling etc), as well as incorporating weight training and flexibility work for healthy joints and muscles.
These recommendations were based on solid scientific and medical research. However, they also acted as a deterrent for many people. Time-strapped adults, juggling kids, two jobs and many other social responsibilities could scarcely find time to sit and eat proper meals, let alone exercise for an hour!

The way it is

However, things have changed. A greater awareness of the demands in our multi-tasking world has helped bring recommendations more in line with what people perceive as realistic. Hence, the foremost authorities now recommend a minimum of 30 minutes exercise five or six days of the week as the baseline for health benefits.
Crucially, they state that this daily exercise can be either continuous or accumulative. This blows the ‘no time’ excuse out of the water in my opinion. Who doesn’t have the time to do ten minutes of exercise in the morning and a further 20 minutes or so at lunch hour or in the evening? Or even three bouts of ten minutes?
In truth, what we are seeing is a return to the long-held wisdom that any small amount of exercise is better than none at all. A return to this mindset is a good thing for us. What’s needed in our modern society is to make exercise a part of our normal daily routine. In our multi-faceted world, exercise has become ‘pigeon-holed’, another addition to our already overburdened list of daily tasks to be completed. Often, it is low on this list and hence, is often skipped.

The way it could be

In previous generations, exercise for healthy living was an unknown concept. Men and women worked on the land, or in the seas, or plied a trade that was physically demanding. Exercise was a part of their daily life – they just didn’t call it exercise!
If we are to really challenge the growing health epidemics in our society, many caused by poor nutritional habits and an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, then a look back at the traditional lifestyle in Ireland can teach us many lessons. We must discover ways to incorporate exercise into daily life. Small changes to start with – working in the garden or veg plot, using the car less and the runners or bike more, relying less on machines and doing some jobs by hand (washing the car for example).
With more time on our hands, we have an opportunity to return to some of the traditional ways of life that can also yield health-benefits. Becoming more active in performing daily tasks could be more likely to lead to positive exercise habits – getting ten minutes of walking or cycling in while doing the shopping, or a great 20-minute upper-body workout when washing the car. Activity breeds activity. Then maybe we can reverse the stigma of exercise as another chore we must perform, a black cloud upon the horizon of our day. Remember what it was like when you were a kid? Exercise for the sheer fun of it!