Friday, April 23, 2010

Exercise or Be Active?

I have gone through various phases regarding the regularity at which I exercise. For many of my adult years, I had a gym membership and either took classes or worked out on my own fairly regularly. Paying a monthly membership fee proved a pretty reliable incentive to get my butt to the gym. But sometime in the last year I decided to cancel my membership. The act of driving my car somewhere for the sole purpose of working out and then driving home no longer made much sense to me. I would just work activity into my daily routine, I told myself. Unfortunately I haven't been as good at that as I had hoped.

So much of what I read about exercise offers conflicting information when it comes to the recommended intensity and duration of work outs. My most recent reading on the subject, from the New York Times, Weighing the Evidence on Exercise, caught (and held) my attention. It explains that exercise might not help people lose weight (especially women), but that it could help people maintain a healthy weight. The last paragraph outlines a study that found significantly more energy is expended when people stand as opposed to sit. I keep thinking about this study and the implications it could have for our workplaces and the obesity problem in this country. I envision redesigned work stations that allow users to stand as they do their work. Everyone wins when the health of workers' improves. Employees receive the obvious benefits of better health and lower medical bills. And employers reap the rewards of increased productivity and lower health insurance premiums.

I also find the simplicity appealing. Our bodies were not made to sit at a desk all day long and then make up for it by spending our precious non-work hours at the gym. I'm convinced there's an easier way. David Damron thinks so too. His recent post on Zen Habits points out how many people living in Japan walk and bike as their means of transportation. People get where they need to go in a manner that costs far less then driving, makes a lighter environmental footprint, all the while moving their body and increasing their health. Maybe we could learn something from the Japanese.

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