Healthy Lives aims to provide the benefits of a natural diet and exercise regime within the realities of modern life.
But what is a natural exercise regime? How did people move and work out before we became office rats?
The most important change in our exercise regime is not the type of movements we do, but how much we move. We sit when we’re at home, we sit in a car to the office, then we sit behind our desk for most of the day. If we move at all, it is mostly for short distances and with little effort.
To be clear, sitting is not unnatural. When our ancestors had nothing to do, they would also sit around a campfire and tell each other stories. But for a significant part of each day, they would also get up and move. They had to.
Exercise had purpose
Our ancestors didn’t exercise because a health professional told them to. Exercise always had a purpose: to collect food, to build shelter, to educate the children. Underneath, our ancestors were just as lazy as we are. If there was nothing to do, they would just hang out. In fact, laziness is not a character flaw but an important evolutionary trait. If you constantly jump around for no purpose, you’re expending precious energy for nothing. When calories are scarce, that’s not a winning strategy.
In our modern lives, our instinctive laziness has become a liability. When we are hungry, we don’t have to hunt for deer or forage for apples anymore. We just pick up the phone and order a pizza.
If you want to be healthy, you will have to override your natural lazy instincts. There are many ways to do this, but the simplest way is to give exercise purpose again. By making yourself earn the foods you crave, your cravings become a powerful motivator. And earning them will make you feel proud instead of guilty.
We all have busy lives. We want to cram as much value into our days as possible. As a result, modern workouts tend to be high intensity sessions for an hour or more. After all, if we make time in our schedule and plan a trip to the gym, we had better make it count!
But working yourself too hard is counterproductive. Intense exercise depletes your muscles’ glycogen stores. In response, your brain tells you to eat more sugars. And since you just worked so hard, you feel entitled to an extra snack. As a result, you will likely eat more than you burned. Research has shown time and again that intense exercise does not help you lose weight.
Exercise is important. But basing your exercise regime on irregular punishing workouts is not the best way to approach things. Instead, you should strive for more and shorter workouts.
Focus of effort, not results
Your exercise regime should be based on regular moderate exercises like walking, biking, skating or swimming. During these exercises you can set a brisk pace, but you should be able to carry out a normal conversation without panting or feeling faint. This way you ensure that you stay in the optimal fat burning zone. Just walking 30 minutes every day is easy to keep up, clears your head and recharges your energy levels.
On top of that, it’s healthy to lift weights and do some sprinting. But contrary to popular culture, there is no real need to cram all your weekly exercise into one or two high intensity sessions. It is perfectly OK to think of life as a series of microworkouts. Do a few sets of strength exercises in the morning, a few more around noon and a couple of all out sprints in the afternoon. This will reduce the risk of injury, and it is much easier to motivate yourself for.
When you exercise, don’t worry about reps or speeds or distances. Make regular exercise a habit. It doesn’t matter if you can do 3 push-ups or 300, as long as you put in time and real effort. Exercise within your ability. If you push yourself just a little bit every time, you will find yourself improving.