When I think about the strongest people historically, prior to conventional athleticism, I think of farmers, masons, carpenters, those who spent long days lifting materials, climbing scaffolding, carrying heavy weights over some distance, representing some of the (functionally) strongest individuals of the time period.
What the mason didn’t do was sit for 15 hours a day with a blocked out solid hour for some determined foundation building. This would be both a huge waste of time and a serious distraction from the primary goal, in this case, to build a strong foundation. Now, the main goal for the mason may not be the same for all, and it’s certainly not mine. Given that I can only pour the water from my own well, I can only frame my life within the framework of my main goal and hope you can find some general synchronicity in your own: be happy and live a long time. But not just live a long time. I want to be happy and live well for a long time. This means being able to support myself, financially, physically, mentally until my course has run. The foundation for succeeding in these objectives is health, and the foundation for health is movement.
Back to our mason. A foundation constructed for one hour each day will eventually get built, but will never be as solid, as efficient, as structurally sound as the foundation built for multiple hours a day. Nor would it be reliable if built for 16 hours each day, if the mason breaks his back attempting these long hours. In the same respect, while an hour of exercise each day is far better than none at all, it still fails to undo multiple hours of sedentary living. Conversely, train hard all day and you will find your body unable to withstand the output, ultimately affecting the “be happy” part of the main goal and eventually the “live well” aspect too. Life requires a balance of stress and comfort, good stress with even better comfort as a result.
Not everyone has the luxury of the trainer, or the responsibility of the mason, to move all day. Many jobs require long periods of sitting, met only with longer periods of the same when one goes home, as the stress of work translates the emotional stress into a physical exhaustion. However, we can find ways to bring the physical back into the daily routine. There’s the obvious: take the stairs, park further away from the grocery store. These are great steps but get ignored due to their simplicity, in an age where we incorrectly translate complexity to efficiency. The less obvious (and more strenuous): ditch the snow blower and pick up the shovel, create a standing desk; sit less, stand more. Better still: take long walks on uneven terrain, replace your office meetings, inside family time, or afternoon relaxation with a leisurely walk with the result of finding yourself feeling better, moving better. Long commute? Bring some grip trainers (yes, those silly, but effective, tools for strengthening the grip). For anyone taking a kettlebell class, you know how valuable a strong grip is. No access to a gym or weights? Some of my best workouts require no more than an 8×8 room and an assortment or pushups, planks, burpees, squats, lunges and mobility drills. Children learn the most from their parents, time with them could be spend practicing movement, playing active games, and you may find they have a lot to teach you about mobility. The playground doesn’t have to be just for the kids.
Our bodies are incredibly adaptive machines, highly susceptible to practice and routine. Make sure the habits you are practicing are the ones you want your body adapting to. If you practice sitting all day, movement will feel increasingly uncomfortable, but if you practice movement often, your body will adapt to movement and your mobility and health will stay with you as you age. Most of my clients who want to get in shape, first have to learn how to move again, how to squat, get off the ground without use of their arms, bend at the waist without rounding the spine, all movements we do naturally from the time we are born but lose when they are not practiced.
Never stop moving and you will never have difficulty starting again. Never stop moving and have the fitness you were meant to possess, the fitness we are all born with, the fitness to be happy and live well for a long time.