Do you get overwhelmed when thinking about trying to exercise? Does the gym cause more stress in your life than benefit? Modern life has completely flipped around what is important. We know this is true with nutrition. I talk about this a lot. Even though we have been eating a diet consisting of mostly animal foods for the majority of our time on earth, it is now the hippest thing around to forgo bacon and eggs for breakfast in favor of a dessert that we call a meal.
The same can be said of exercise. We have figured out a way to stimulate every muscle in our bodies by isolating them with machines. We can measure the lactate generated in our muscles and know if we are efficient at clearing it. We can specify what weight and how many reps of a given exercise to perform for maximal benefit. This new knowledge of everything fitness brings with it many possibilities for building the bodies we want and getting more detailed and goal orientated with our body composition. There is also a shadow side to overcomplicating fitness.
Every day people sit on the sidelines and choose to NOT move instead of figuring out what to do. Open up the latest issue of Muscle and Fitness and you will be met with a barrage of 15 different ways to stimulate the growth of your biceps. How does this relate to getting in shape? How do all of these exercises fit into the everyday persons life? Are they even healthy?
I like to look at things from an ancestral perspective. It’s simple. It’s easy. We look at how our ancestors were living and how their lifestyle habits worked to stave off chronic disease. We can argue all day about how life expectancy was lower thousands of years ago, but the simple fact was this was due to infection and birth complication. We were not getting fat and dying of chronic/metabolic disease. Rates of chronic disease have increased to become the #1 killer of our population. Many things can be directly linked to this. Environmental toxins, poor food and nutrient intake, stress, the list goes on. A big factor that prevents these diseases is our level of fitness and activity. And what is the type of movement we have stopped doing that was a constant in our history? Long, steady, slow movement.
Our Ancestors Were Not Going To The Gym To Get Fit
Think about that for a second. We did not always have gyms. We didn’t have trainers counting our reps on “off” days from hunting and foraging. You know what we did all day long while accomplishing these vital tasks? We moved slowly a lot.
At this point you’re probably going, “Really Elliot? I just need to walk more?”, the answer is a big yes. Walking and other activites that trigger a comparable heart rate are some of the most potent things we can do to maintain a baseline of health. Things like going for gentle hikes, walks, canoeing, swimming, stand-up paddle boarding, and yoga are all classified under what’s called low-level aerobic activity.
Our bodies are REALLY good at this sort of movement. This is because we are designed to thrive and flourish under the conditions in which we would have originally been moving like this. Picture moving around all day, slowly looking for game to hunt, or walking softly though the woods while foraging for wild plants. Look to more recent times at how we used to have to work and farm for most of our food. These activates take time, and our bodies are not dumb. Due to the volume of time spent moving slowly, our bodies and the genes that dictate health have evolved to take this sort of activity and promote optimal health with it.
Most people are simply not getting the amount of aerobic exercise necessary to reap the health benefits from it. Remember, this is something we used to do all day. Our lives are now built around sitting. We have to make time to move. This is a new phenomenon, and we have to learn how to deal with it.
The Benefits Of Moving Slowly
Aerobic exercise is defined by any activity that pushes our heart rate to 55 to 75 percent of our max heart rate. Your fitness dictates the range at which the aerobic heart hate kicks in. For a more in shape individual, it will probably kick in at the lower range around 55 percent, which someone who is out of shape having to work their heart harder to achieve the aerobic zone. This is in stark contrast to going on a run, which will typically put our heart rate in the “black hole zone”, where glucose is the fuel source being burned and it is a stressor on the body.
Low-level aerobic activity should be the base on which our movement foundation is built. It optimizes our metabolism and maintains our weight, all while strengthening the large and small muscle groups and joints responsible for all other exercises.
This is backed up by research. A study on patients with HIV was conducted to see if moderate aerobic exercise could improve their health and quality of life. Aerobic exercise 3 times a week improved strength, body composition, depression symptoms, and quality of life. Another study looked at the differences between cardio training at high, mid, or low intensity. While high intensity showed the greatest improvement in body composition, low intensity still showed significant changes.
I am all for periodic high-intensity (HIT) exercise. The problem is that we cannot place all of our movement in this one basket. HIT is great because it is a massive stress on the body and triggers the release of all sorts of beneficial hormones while improving many health markers in the body. But the fact that it is so stressful on us limits how often we can do it. This is where low to moderate intensity comes in. We can do it every day. This makes sure that we are getting in this vital movement regularly without having to allow time for our body to recover from the effort. This provides access to daily fitness without the recovery associated with HIT or heavy resistance training.
Aerobic exercise also decreases the odds of getting breast cancer, and lowers systemic inflammation! So now that we know that aerobic exercise is vital for maintenance of health and fitness, how much is actually needed to get the benefits?
There is no limit to the amount of aerobic exercise you should be getting. Thats how vital this movement is. Our lives used to revolve around walking and moving slowly all day. A good minimum to shoot for would be 2 hours a week. More is always better. 2 hours is nothing compared to the way we used to live. 4 or 5 hours a week would be even better.
This doesn’t have to be on a treadmill! In fact, it would be better if it wasn’t. Go for a 10 minute walk after every meal. That guarantees you 25-30 minutes a day. Go for longer hikes a couple times a week. Go dancing. Do some yoga. play in the yard with your kids. It all counts. Your body will thank you, and all other fitness endeavors will become much easier and more worthily.
Thats it for this week everyone. Thanks for reading, and make sure to sign up for our newsletter to get a free copy of our ebook, 3 Elements To Life Long Health!
Elliot Steele is a Primal Health Coach based in Chelan WA. He strives to empower those looking to regain their health after a lifetime of misinformed practices. This is the essence of Steele Back Your Health, to truly learn how to be healthy with sustainable habits. Check out the coaching and blog page for more info!