As the warm months approach the Northern Hemisphere many of us feel inspired to get outdoors and shed some of that weight gained during the colder time of year. There seems little doubt that humans evolved to store energy for the lean times, the winters when the game was scarce and gathering all but impossible. During the spring, summer, and fall when hunting and gathering occupied all of the people, activity increased, food plentiful, and our ancestors worked to store food for the winter. The result, the people were fit and likely slender. They were not fit on purpose. They didn't go to the gym, swim in the pool, ride their bicycle, or lift weights. They were fit because they worked hard and burned more calories than they consumed.
Today, in highly industrialized societies, we do not live the lifestyle of our aboriginal ancestors. Quite the contrary. To a large extent, life is quite sedentary. The vast majority of people in the United States work sitting down all day. They drive to work, sit at a desk, sit to eat, drive home, and sit on the couch to watch TV in the evening. In order to compensate for this sedentary life, many choose to take time to exercise on purpose. We do not have to look far to find people jogging in the park, going to the gym, riding their bicycles, hiking in the wilderness, or doing something else to add some small dose of exercise for the sake of fitness to their daily routine,
The difference between our ancestors' natural fitness and our modern understanding of fitness is palpable. Our ancestors stayed fit because their daily activities led to that result. We, on the other hand, must work to get and stay fit. Because we live in abundance, most of us do not worry about where our next meal will come from. All of our hunting and gathering is done at the local supermarket. We rely on processed foods to take the burden out of meal preparation. In short, we are a quite fortunate generation of people.
Taking inspiration from our ancestors, however, it is possible to think about fitness as a way of life rather than as some form of weird diet and an hour at the gym every day. There are some very simple things we can do to address the sedentary life we lead. They aren't big things, but when taken together, they add up to creating a routine that makes fitness natural rather than contrived.
Adhere to the Half-Mile Rule: The half-mile rule simply says, if your destination is a half-mile or less from your present location, WALK. Leave the car in the garage, put on your favorite walking shoes and walk to where you are going and back. After a few months of following this rule, up the ante to following the one-mile rule.
Park your car at a Distant Location: This means simply that instead of looking for the closest parking place, look for the place farthest from your destination. There are two benefits to this one. First, you'll almost certainly find a spot to park under a nice shade tree because most people look for the closest spots. Secondly, you'll get to walk additional steps during the course of the day, adding to your overall fitness,
Take the Stairs: Climbing (or descending) stairs is good for your overall fitness. If you are in a place where you have a choice of an elevator or taking the stairs, opt for the stairs. In the beginning, think about 3 to 4 flights of stairs either up or down. Later you may choose to climb as many as 10 flights of stairs. But moderation at the start is certainly justified.
- Stand: If your job requires you to sit for long periods of time, invest in one of those desk-toppers that adjust the height of the workspace and stand to work rather than sit. If you can't afford that or your boss discourages that, then set an alarm to go off each hour you are at work, stand-up when it goes off and take a minute to walk around. Try to do this at least 12 times during the course of the day.
While not exactly emulating our rather fit ancestors, these three things you can do right now are designed to add a period of daily movement that will do wonders for your overall fitness and health. And they are so simple that anyone can do them.