Make Exercise (and Movement) a Part of the Culture of Your Life

Culture (from Webster’s): An integrated pattern of living; the characteristic features of everyday existence; a set of conventions associated with living one’s life.

While most everyone knows physical exercise (and just moving a lot) is important, few of us exercise, move well, or move enough on a consistent basis. The verbalized reasons for this are varied, but I think they can all be paired down to just one: At the point of choice, those who don’t exercise chose something else.

If this is you, be kind to yourself, and take responsibility for the choices you’ve made. It’s not that you don’t have the time, space, money, or energy to exercise. These are all smoke-screen lies we tell ourselves and other people to keep us from taking responsibility for how we look and feel. As difficult as this might be to swallow, the body you have at 50 is 99.999999% your fault. What I mean is this: How you look, feel, and move is directly the result of the millions of day-to-day choices you’ve made in your 32+ years since becoming an adult.

This is a fact.

Of course, you can pretend it isn’t so, but that doesn’t make it any less true, applicable, or relevant. Please forgive me if this sounds even remotely harsh, for such is not my intention. I ‘m just wanting to be very clear about the truth. For me to not be clear would be dishonest, and I abhor that. When it comes to painful things, I’m reminded of the following line from The Princess Bride:

Wesley (“The Dreaded Pirate Roberts”) to Princess Buttercup: “Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says otherwise is selling something.”

Here’s what I suggest: Chose to exercise whenever you can. Of course, creating a gym schedule (and then adhering to it!) is a great thing (and I support wholeheartedly your doing just that), but that’s not what I’m talking about here. What I am talking about is choosing to take a more physical approach to as much as you can throughout your day. Make such a “practice” a part of the culture of your life. It really is amazing how much the little things, when done well, can add up. Provided below are seven opportunities to add a little physical pizzazz to your daily life:

1. When you wake-up in the morning, stretch for two minutes (even while you’re still in bed). Here are three stretches or movements you can do: (A) The butterfly stretch (if you’re unfamiliar with this stretch, Google or YouTube it); (B) Ankle rotations and foot points and flexes; and (3) Knee-to-chest pulls (you can pull one knee up at a time or both knees at the same time). In case you’re wondering…yes, I do these stretches (along with a few others) every morning.

2. When you park your car at your place of work or at a retail establishment (and, especially, at the gym!), park far from the entrance and then “hike it in.”

3. Always take the stairs; never use an elevator or escalator. Most places that have an escalator or elevator also have stairs. If you ever find yourself in a place that doesn’t have stairs, consider yourself off-the-hook in that instance.

4. During television commercial breaks, get up and walk around for at least a minute or so and then drop down and do a set of ten push-ups. Do knee push-ups until you can do full push-ups.

5. While you’re at work, get up from your work station every twenty minutes and walk around for at least a minute or so.

6. When you’re waiting in line at the grocery store, drop down into a sumo squat position and hold it for at least 30 seconds. I do this all the time. Sure, I draw strange looks and off-handed questions regarding my physical and mental state, but I do it any way. If you’d rather not deal with strange looks or comments, pick out a heavy item from your cart, and then curl it several times with each arm. If you don’t know what a curl is, Google or YouTube it.

7. When you’re playing with your young children, get down on the floor and crawl around or wrestle with them.

The key to all this is to look for ways to move more healthily and to do it as often as you can throughout the day. Again, you’ll be surprised at how much fun it can be and also at how much better you’ll look and feel over time. You might even feel good enough to start going to the gym, or going for a walk each night after dinner, or walking the dog twice a day, or eating better, or going to bed earlier, or…[fill-in-the-blank]. I call this “Making exercise, movement, and healthy living a part of the daily culture of your life.”

MRL Maxim: Everyone can move more throughout their day than they do.

MRL Call-to-action: Seek first to move as healthily as possible. And then seek to move in such healthy ways as often and in as many different contexts as you can.