Exercise is a hugely misunderstood topic in America. We simply don’t understand what exercising is all about. We think things like “P90x”, 6 week abs, and endless time spent in gyms on machines and treadmills is exercise. I’m sorry but this is dumb. We are brainwashed to think this way. It is plain dangerous for people to be doing this 5 days a week. Add to that fact that most American’s don’t even get basic nutrition to begin with and you have a recipe for disaster. So let’s take a look at what “working out” means.
Working Out: This means that you are SPENDING your own energy to accomplish some sort of physical activity. This could be moving quickly over distances, lifting your own bodyweight off of the floor, moving furniture, pedaling a bike, whatever. Now this is where it gets a little confusing. Spending a little energy will actually help your body MAKE more energy in the long run (as long as we don’t overdo it). So exercise is another one of those things in life where it appears moderate usage is best.
So there are different levels here. I try to stick with the basics and if I have enough energy leftover, I will do something a little more advanced. There is an old post where I outlined this in a little more detail, but these are the basics.
1. Focus on “working in” first. Things like Qi-gong, Tai-chi, meditation, very slow walking, deep breathing, etc. These bring energy into your body and could be likened to “internal exercise”
2. Next comes the light stuff. Things like walking, light cycling, stretching, mini tramp, etc. We are talking low and slow pace here
3. Next focus on more intense, but still endurance, style things. brisk walking, yoga, light jogging, kayaking, hiking, biking, mini trampoline, swimming. Some light bodyweight exercises can be included here too.
4. Tougher hiking, serious bodyweight exercises, faster paced jogging, and light sports.
5. Sprints, intense sports competitions, and bodybuilding would be here.
Now personally, I don’t think anyone with low-energy or ill-health should be doing anything past level 3 here. The point is to build your body from the inside out, not to make it super-functional physically. So if you are dealing with health problems, I would definitely recommend qigong, tai-chi, walking, and stretching as my main exercises. However, I also feel that SOME strength training is helpful for most people. In this case, you would want to design an exercise program with light, compound movements. These would be bodyweight exercises. Pick a few for each major muscle group. So pushing, pulling, squatting, crunching, low-back are the 5 I normally do. There are free videos and tutorials all over the internet on different exercises. Always focus on technique and form over quantity. Start slow. Do less than you think you COULD do. The real key here is to stay consistent, always mix up your exercise program, stay hydrated, well nourished, and sleep a lot. If you find that you are too sore, in pain, or exhausted; then you should go back to the easy stuff until it passes. These simple lessons took me a long time to learn, but they allow for the benefits of exercising without any of the negative consequences from confusing “fitness levels” with “health levels.”