Would I be completely in the wrong to say that exercise has been taken out of the context of our regular daily activity?
I don’t believe so, given the fact that most people’s exercise now takes place in gyms and home workouts rather than actual, useful activities. Exercise, far from being part of our chosen trade or part of our recreation, now is done in front of other, usually more fit people, at a gym or on a workout machine. It’s often regarded more as a status symbol than anything these days–if you have time to work out, you must be in a good job.
But what about exercise that MEANS something for your life, other than fitting into a smaller size or being healthier? Sure, those are worthy goals to have, but I would prefer to actually do something useful while exercising. Exercising just for its own sake is boring and lonely to me, and it feels useless; when in real life are we really going to lift weight in exactly the same pose for a certain number of times, or walk exactly a mile, or use just our abs to do anything besides laugh?
Modern “Exercise”: Movement without Context, without Purpose
In principle, this is the same problem I always had in math classes–being assigned 30 naked, context-less problems in a math book to “practice what we just learned” felt like a waste of time and effort. It always left me thinking, “I do all this problem-solving work, but it’s not really helping anybody. How about giving me 30 real-world problems that other people need solved right now? That way, I practice AND I help somebody out.”
Exercise, in my opinion, should be a fun activity that accomplishes a real-life goal outside of physical fitness. Yes, yes, I know, exercise for itself is great, but it bores me and makes me feel like I’m just wasting my time. I want it to multi-task.
Example of Purposeless Exercise: JUST Walking on a Track
Walking around and around in a pointless circle on a track for an hour? BORING. In fact, I’ve written a couple of times about exercise, including just how much I hate walking for no reason. Makes me want to tear my hair out. I’ve tried doing just walking as exercise several times, and I just can’t stay with it. Not only does every joint in my lower body hurt more with every step, but I’m wasting an hour just walking around when I could be getting stuff done at home, or running errands. It’s not “peaceful” or “relaxing,” as other people have told me it is for them–I find it maddening and painful.
Example of Purposeful Exercise: Walking as a Way to Get Stuff Done
Now, contrast that with activities that just involve walking: walking pets, running errands in town without using a car, or taking the kids on a nature hike. This is the kind of walking I can get behind–walking for a PURPOSE!
For instance, letting pets get out and about with you is a great way to bond with them, as well as to let them do their business outside (always good for the ol’ flooring). Parking your car and walking around in uptown saves gas, gets stuff done, AND gets you exercise. Getting the kids out of the house, away from computers, TVs, and video games, can be an important family bonding moment as well as family exercise. They can learn from you that exercise doesn’t have to be something regimented and divorced from their reality.
I Want This Kind of Exercise–the USEFUL Kind!
This is what I’m talking about–making exercise a seamless part of everyday life instead of a status symbol. Lifting weights 20-reps-at-a-time in the gym is pointless and means nothing for my everyday life; however, lifting junk down out of the attic and moving it out of my house is a weight-lifting exercise I can appreciate. I’ll be sore after doing both types of exercise, but only one type of exercise gets something done besides building up muscle.
Zumba, strangely, fulfills this “useful exercise” requirement I have in a unique way; it is based on dance moves, so I feel like I’m performing with a group of people rather than just “working out.” Not only that, being with the group of people and directly interfacing with the group leader helps me feel more accountable, like somebody actually gives a rat’s rear end that I’m doing this. It’s useful exercise because I love to perform and I love to socialize–it kills three birds with one stone, giving me new friends, a new “venue” to perform in, and a healthier body over time.
I know there are people out there who really enjoy the nitty-gritty training of exercise for its own sake. But I think if we’re ever going to be a healthier, fitter nation, we need to make exercise an integral part of life’s other activities rather than making it something we have to do outside of normal activities. Let’s make it not so lonely, boring, and horrible to try getting fit, and maybe more people will do it!