When figuring out what movement is required to be well we need to go back to the gold standard of health – Our pre industrial hunter-gatherer ancestors. Thousands of years before the invention of treadmills and cross trainers these people were fitter, stronger and leaner then most of us. In fact their fitness levels were comparable to Olympic athletes without any conscious “training”
This is because movement was part of daily life. If you didn’t move you didn’t eat. We share the same genes with our ancestors so we are designed to move in the same way.
So what types of movements were common to them?
Daily walking – The major mode of transport
Occasional lifting of heavy objects – Dragging, lifting, throwing, carrying
Occasional bursts of intense movement – Sprinting after food or away from danger
This is the clever part. The human body was been designed so that these movements which were part of day-to-day life are a genetically required “nutrient” to the brain. So without even knowing it our ancestors were keeping their bodies healthy just by going about their daily business.
The problem came in when we stopped moving like this and started sitting in offices eight hours per day, driving everywhere and lying on the couch all weekend. Our bodies are now deficient in one of its most important genetic raw materials.
1. Walk as much as you can everyday. Park the car further from the office, take the stairs and walk to fetch your lunch.
2. Two to three times per week lift some weights. At first just body weight exercises are fine. This should be functional full body movements including pushups, squats, pull ups, planks and lunges. If you are inexperienced with these techniques go through them with a trainer they can be modified to any fitness level
3. Once to twice per week do High intensity interval training using sprints. An example would be 20 second sprint with 10 seconds rest. Repeat this 8 times. This is a 4-minute exercise but you will be completely exhausted by the end of it. This can also be modified to sprinting on a stationary bike, rower or in the pool.
The most important thing to remember is to train under guidance to reduce the chances of injury. It doesn’t matter what fitness level you are, all these movements can be modified to suit you.
As with eating, movement is not an all or nothing principle if you move more today then you did yesterday you have already succeeded. Just by consistently walking you will reduce your chances of developing obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Once the above movements have been mastered you can cut your workout times down drastically while getting even better results. This is Quality over quantity. Work hard for twenty minutes instead of pounding the treadmill for an hour. Then go home put your feet up and eat some real food.