In my What Is Primal? post, I talked about a few Primes rules to live by. This post details Primal rule to live by #3: Move frequently and comfortably. Have you ever gotten bored and walked to the fridge, only to open it, look around, close it, and walk away hungry? Everyone seems to share the same opinion, you’re not really hungry—just bored. Exactly the opposite, have you ever been so busy at work in the office, in the yard, or at play, that when you look at the clock you realize the time is closer to sunset than dawn, and you still haven’t eaten anything? The disparity between these two scenarios is summed up in the bible.
Slothfulness casts into a deep sleep, and an idle person will suffer hunger.Proverbs 19:15 ESV
So, Why Move More?
God just told us that if we don’t, we’ll be hungry!
And not just that we’ll be hungry but that we’ll suffer hunger. Suffer. That’s a word not usually attributed to hunger for those of us blessed enough to be able to afford our groceries. The word suffer seems to perfectly sum up what it feels like though, to wander aimlessly without even knowing what we’re looking for. It sounds to me, and I’ve noticed from my own experience, that God’s given us the answer to hunger… be unlike the sloth. This view makes sense regardless of what we’re hungry for; food, better health, or closeness to God. In this post, lets discuss where being physically unlike the sloth gets us.
Physical Movement and health
There are so many misconceptions around diet and exercise. Take for instance that we can eat whatever we want as long as we exercise, or that if we exercise, we can sit on the couch all weekend with no ill-effects. Unfortunately, that’s simply not so. No amount of exercise will save us from poor food choices, or a sedentary life style. I liken all of this to cleaning a rug. If no one vacuums the rug, it will become a science experiment of epic proportions! If we begin to vacuum, but only make one pass, the rest of the rug stays dirty!
There’s just no way to make one pass with a sweeper and clean the whole rug!
In order to get the rug clean, we need to tend to all of it, not only one part. Now think of your health as the rug. In one corner there’s diet, in another exercise, in another stress management and so on, then somewhere in there is your job… and if you’re like most, we’ll call your job “sitting-all-day.” Similarly to cleaning the rug, there’s no way to clean up our health tending to only once little part of the rug. We can scrub, vacuum, and bleach one corner, but if we dump a bucket of dirt all over the rest, we’ll still walk away with dirty socks. When it comes to our health, prolonged sitting is the sloth—the dirt on the rug—and if we make a habit of being still more than of moving, no movement will spare us from the ill-effects of our sloth-fullness.
Aim to move regularly! Someone who never works out in a gym, but is constantly in motion, has wired their brain to enjoy spontaneity and will naturally be more active. Google “NEAT” and you’ll see what I’m talking about. It’s a lot like Newton’s Law of motion; those who sit will stay sedentary, those who move will stay in motion. We need to be the force that acts upon ourselves to begin the motion.
Consistent, low-level, movement will improve your health. In my next few blog posts I’ll add in more discussion on the importance of including strength training and high intensity activities, but for now, lets focus on that our journey toward physical health starts with moving slowly at a comfortable pace.
Moving more Throughout the Day
I could sit on the couch all day and be happy. My husband, no way! He is ALWAYS on the move! I used to think men and women were just different that way, then I realized his mom is the same way. There goes that argument! Regardless, when I think about a ‘day-in-the-life’ of most people, I don’t know where any of us find time to be still anyway! On weeknights and weekends, whether it’s playing with the kids, putting away laundry, getting the dog’s fur off the stairs, cleaning the house, or maintaining a home, there is no shortage of ways to move slowly and comfortably.
During work it can be more difficult if you’ve got a desk job, but it’s still do-able. Consider that there’s no need to stay seated all day long to get your work done. If you’re at a desk, stand up while you’re on the phone. Set a timer so every so often you remember to get off the chair and stretch your legs. If you’re able, go for a jaunt around the office, to the restroom, anywhere really. Aim to move even though you’re seated most of the time. If the sloth is sitting for an extended period of time, make it a point to interrupt him with unseated-activity of any sort. If your employer welcomes new-age thinking, ask for a standing desk and use a stool to take breaks.
Structured Aerobic Workouts
When our bodies use energy aerobically, we burn fat to support our energy needs. At the aerobic activity level, oxygen is a key ingredient in the process our bodies use to extract energy from fat. Since oxygen in our bloodstream is a limited commodity, if our activity level goes above what our body can supply in energy from fat, we move into anaerobic territory… we need the energy to sustain the activity… so our bodies shift from burning fat, because there’s not enough oxygen to sustain the process, to other sources that don’t require oxygen for energy conversion. During anaerobic activity, we burn more glucose than fat.
Moving beyond aerobic activity, into the anaerobic zone, also stresses out our bodies. There’s good stress, and bad stress, (again, this will be addressed in my next few posts) but on a daily basis stressing out our bodies is not what we’re aiming for! What we need to increase, or maintain optimum health, is between two and five hours of aerobic activity per week. While there is no real upper limit to the frequency or duration of aerobic activity our bodies can handle, two to five hours per week will yield maximum health gains so much more than that isn’t really necessary. That said, you’ve got to be sure you’re in the aerobic zone for those two to five hours. How do we tell? Heart rate.
Maximum Aerobic Heart Rate = 180 – Age
Subtract your age from 180. That number is your maximum heart rate for an aerobic work out. You’re heart rate will be your limiting factor in determining how far you can push yourself and still stay within the bounds of aerobics. It may be surprising just how limiting heart rate may be. Evan a brisk walk may push you over the limit, and so a heart rate monitor is a great idea—they’re cheap and incredibly useful—so get one!
Once your able to monitor your hear rate and limit your activity accordingly, add aerobic activities to your daily routines; a stroll before work, a bike ride after dinner, whatever you enjoy that keeps your heart rate in the aerobic range! My brother-in-law walks around his yard each morning and picks up sticks. What a great habit! He gets to enjoy the beautiful scenery that surrounds him, his yard is easy to mow because there’s nothing in his way, and when it’s time for a fire he’s got kindling handy. Whatever floats your boat, do it and do it regularly @ a heart rate of 180 minus your age.
Flexibility / Mobility
Aside from the many benefits of flexibility itself, most flexibility exercises can be accomplished within the bounds of an aerobic heart rate which makes these exercised attractive. Yoga and water aerobics are great examples. You can also do simple gymnastics or stretches. Explore google, there’s a whole world of flexibility exercises out there that can be done without exceeding your maximum aerobic heart rate.
Aerobic activities, where you move slowly and at a comfortable pace, minimize ill-effects on the body and provide a fantastic opportunity to improve overall health. Whether you’re a perfect specimen of physical health, or just starting out and wanting to make improvements to your health, moving slowly at a comfortable pace will help you:
- Become more efficient at burning fat for energy; during activity and at rest!
- Slowly build your ability to accomplish more while not exceeding your aerobic heart rate.
- Better handle the stress of more intense activity when it occurs.
There’s no reason we need to be sedentary. There are a plethora of reasons to keep moving. The first thing we need to move is our minds. We need to accept that we’re doing harm to ourselves when we choose to stay still. We need to accept that the only way to increase our activity level, and desire to stay active, is to make the choice to be active initially. We also need to accept that moving—done right—isn’t about stressing ourselves out or killing ourselves at the gym while everyone else is out living. Simply moving more on a daily basis is a wonderful start!
Play with your kids. Walk the dog. Clean the house. Maintain the yard. Ride a bike. Go kayaking.
Whatever! You get the idea.
Bottom line, stay in motion!
Lord, there are ramifications for acting the part of the sloth. You tell us that we’ll be hungry—that we’ll suffer hunger, in fact. Father I ask that you help us to be unlike the sloth and keep us in motion. Lord, I ask for help staying in motion both physically and spiritually. There are those of us who are naturally active and enjoy moving regularly. And then there are those of us who struggle to move Lord. We need your help to stay active, physically and spiritually. We can’t do it alone. How much we could do if only we had the time! We repeat such phrases, then let time slip through our fingers while we stay stagnant. Lord there is a time for rest, and a time for activity. Please inspire us, move us, give us the perseverance to stay in motion when we’d rather stay still.
I ask this in Jesus name.