In this article we move away from the nitty gritty of how our bodies work and instead look at the meaning of the word exercise. To some, exercise is a word filled with trepidation as we are continuously bombarded with people, companies, health professionals and the media telling us to exercise. To others, exercise is something exciting , something that their day is planned around. Whichever camp you fall into we hope this article will get you thinking.
Firstly what does exercise do?
It simply challenges our body systems. When exercising we are challenging the vascular system (blood flow), the nervous system (co-ordination), the respiratory system (breathing) and the hormomal system (endorphins).
Why is this important?
To answer this, let’s consider how are bodies works. We have a range of functioning levels, e.g. our system is in a different state when we a sleep, at work, being active, eating, etc. Each state requires a different set of parameters, I.e. Our oxygen concentration in our blood will be different when we are sleeping to when we are at work as will our hormonal balance, etc. Thus we go through different states in our daily live dependent on what we are doing. Our system needs to be able to respond and adapt to these changing states and in some cases rapidly. Exercise forces our system to adapt quickly and thus maintains our systems ability to adapt. It also builds a greater range of adaption. I.e. If our hearts are stronger and our body more coordinated then we have more options in the event of let’s take an extreme example of escaping a fire in our home. We could climb out the upstairs window, quickly run through the hot, low oxygen filled hallway to safety or dangle the bed sheets from the window and after anchoring it climb down. If we did not have any fitness then climbing out would be unattainable and so we would be felt with the only option of running through the hall way.
Whether we can run 1mile in 5mins or 5mins 30sec (I.e. our performance during exercise) is not a life benefit, rather it is an ego benefit. For life exercise gives us options and the ability to adapt.
Has exercise always existed ?
Not in the convectional sense. 200years ago there were no gyms or exercise classes. Rather people had active lives which incorporated exercise. They played games outside to entertain themselves (which developed into sports) and they lifted and moved (I.e. ran, walked, climbed) as part of their daily live
It is only in the modern world, where the physicality of life has been removed that we need to exercise to give ourselves that adaptation ability.
Do we need to exercise?
How many people in a physically demanding job exercise as well? In my experience not many. And that is exactly the point, if you are physical in your daily life then you are changing your levels and improving your adaptability and thus exercise has little additional value. Equally, if you are active in your live, then the need for exercise becomes less. There is a buzz word currently circulating called active living. Just being active can give you the adaptability you need.
Exercise vs active living which is better?
It does not matter, it depends on your circumstance and your mind set. If you have a sedentary job and like your creature comforts then exercising will give you that adaptability. However if you have a physical job and prefer to use your body to do things (e.g. Washing up by hand as opposed a dish washer, cycling as opposed to driving), then exercise will give you little extra benefit. As long as you do at least one it make no odds whether you are active living or exercising.