Oh Noes! Exercise!

23 09 2008

Everyone’s been talking about this study so I thought I’d hop on the bandwagon.

Both DR over at healthhabits and Mcbloggenstein at Stop Being so Fat have written some good posts about it. I don’t want to repeat too much of what they’ve said, so go over and give both of their entries a look.

First, I want to repeat what a lot of people are saying in that this isn’t such an unreasonable idea. Like I said in my post about NEALS (non-exercise-activity-levels), being active is more than going to the gym, it’s also about making a hundred small choices a day. And yes, most people do have the time to be active for several hours a day *and* go to the gym 3 days a week.

This is one of those areas where people are really good at lying to themselves and sabotaging their own efforts to lose weight/improve health. According to the Nielsen ratings company, Americans watch over four hours of tv every day. I know so many people who are absolutely adamant that they cannot go to they gym because they lack the time and yet they always know what happened on some sitcom the night before. People are as good at forgetting that hour and a half in front of the tv or computer as they are at forgetting that half a cookie or those couple of m&m’s they ate.

But But but! I can already hear all those excuses. All over the internet people dismissed the idea that they had the time or the energy to maintain those kind of activity levels. “We have jobs and kids and commutes!” Just like I always find it amazing that the internet manages to have such high representation among those with fairly rare conditions (everyone on the internet has celiacs, some sort of diagnosis for a auto-immune or metabolic disorder and is most likely on some sort of genius-yet-troubled spectrum of behavior), I am equally amazed at the number of people who can argue for hours on the internet about how they have no time for fitness. A full 70% of people on the internet have 8 kids, a four hour commute and a physically demanding job?

Probably not. Chances are these people have pretty sedentary jobs, sit in a car for maybe an hour or so a day and have more than enough time to stay active, read to their kids *and* still watch The Daily Show before bed.

Three to four hours of activity sounds like a lot when you try to spin it to mean that you must be in a gym for three to four consecutive hours. How about instead you start making it a priority to get a decent night’s sleep so you’re not completely dead in the mornings. Then…
1) Try to fit in a 15-20 minute walk before breakfast just to wake you up and get your blood moving.
2) Instead of sitting in front of good morning america with a bowl of sugar flakes, put a radio in the kitchen and listen to the news while you putter around and make a decent breakfast.
3) At the office you can make it a rule that you only use the elevators if you’re a) running late for something important or b) having to go up more than 5 floors.
Hell, I won’t even tell you to spend your lunch break walking.
Once you get home, don’t turn on the tv or instantly grab some high calorie snack or beverage. Find other ways to unwind. Maybe…
1) tossing a ball with the dogs or chatting with the kids while you cook dinner or clean up.
2) If you’re a type that does well with stricter rules, then make it a rule that the tv must stay off until an hour after dinner is over.
3) You can do what some married friends of mine do and take turns going to they gym. They each get several nights during the week where they go to they gym while the other takes care of dinner.
4) Make physical activity part of family time. Walk and chat with your spouse while the kids ride bikes.
5) Invest in a trampoline. Great exercise. Kids love it.
6) Housework is wonderful. Keeps you busy and, when you do sit back to relax, you’re going to be able to really let go and not worry about things you want to get done.

Not including time in the gym, it would be easy to work in 45 minutes of light activity in the morning and well over an hour at night. Including the stair climbing at the office (and maybe some walking breaks during the day) it would be perfectly feasible to get 2.5 hours of activity a day without stepping foot inside a gym. Assuming a person is sleeping 8 hours a night, spending 11 hours at and travelling to/from work, that would still leave five hours in a day. So long as you make activity a part of actual life and not just a terrible chore, you don’t have to feel like that time is a sacrifice either. In fact, it can be a much better way to connect with your friends and loved ones that sitting slack-jawed in front of the idiot box.

A final note, the gene that was the focus of this study, dubbed FTO, is associated with increased weight and an increased risk of obesity, but it’s not a guarantee and not all fat people have this particular gene variant. So whatever you do, don’t listen to the headlines or to the people who would have you believe that this study is proof that your weight is beyond your control. Instead, marvel at how our lifestyle choices can change the expression of our very genes. Remember, you are still in control.

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