When I first began to conceive of 99% Fit, a friend pointed out that exercise often seems compartmentalized – it’s described as an activity that isn’t to be integrated into the rest of your life. This, of course, does not always have to be the case, and a backlash to this attitude is gaining momentum. What’s particularly interesting about this counter-culture conversation is how it’s being positioned: as exercise that’s not really exercise.
In his piece “The Exercise Myth,” fitness columnist James Pell posits that many people hate exercise and struggle with adopting a routine for many reasons that fall under the compartmentalization umbrella mentioned above – you have to go to a certain place to do it, it takes up a lot of time, and it can be painful. For people who feel like they can never manage to enjoy exercise enough to overcome these hurdles, he proposes Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, which is essentially integrating more physical activity throughout your regular day:
“Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis… is burning calories via methods other than traditional sport or exercise. It’s movement with a purpose, like walking instead of driving, using your bike as a mode of transportation, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, getting up and walking to a co-worker’s office to chat instead of picking up the phone, pacing while on the phone instead of sitting, doing housework, shoveling snow, yard work, carpentry, playing with your kids, walking the dog, doing laundry, moving furniture … All those things people stopped doing because of technology…movement begets more movement. Starting slowly, you’ll find over time that you transform from a sitter to a mover, and you’ll rack up some caloric burns while achieving greater fitness.”
Recently, the beauty and lifestyle blog Into the Gloss has delved into this subject as well with a post celebrating 4 “Anti-Workouts.” While tongue was planted firmly in cheek with this piece, it does include a couple of genuinely good ideas for building in more activity into your life without feeling the need to attach yourself to the latest cardio craze. For instance, their SoulCycle alternative:
“Instead of Soulcycle: Very zen Citibiking. Or suburb-biking, if you're not located in a proper Citi. You can replicate the experience of a boutique cycling workout by wearing sunglasses, listening to some Corinne Bailey Rae (or Skrillex! Whatever you're into), and cruising to and from the rosé store. Unlike in Soulcycle, please wear a helmet.”
All this raises an interesting question: is ALL physical activity exercise? Or is it just certain types of physical activity? The Department of Health and Human Services recommends that all adults should be getting a minimum of a 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week, or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity. Moderate physical activity defined by them can be an activity like brisk walking or mowing the lawn – certainly within the same category of activities in the aforementioned pieces. That said, the label “exercise” is often off-putting for many, given the many negative associations it has. If calling moderate physical activity that’s a natural extension of your everyday routine something other than exercise makes it more bearable and palatable to people, I’m all for it. This entire conversation shows the power that certain concepts have over our ability to adopt them, and if reframing them helps them seem more accessible, that’s only a good thing.