Exercise Is NOT An Option
But We Need Options For Exercise
(The secret of feeling good)

Would we forgo brushing our teeth?  Would we allow our children to forgo brushing their teeth? Jonathan Hoffman*, used this analogy while teaching a group of teacher’s teachers to drive home the fundamental concept that we as humans must exercise. Movement is essential.  Proper motion is lotion. Use it or loose it. Our joints need to be exercised to remain optimally functional.  Our bodies need to be moved. Moving our bodies facilitates chemical changes that are necessary for regulating many of our bodily functions, from breathing to elimination.

I worked as a physical therapist’s aid at Moss Rehabilitation Center, in Philadelphia, Pa., during undergraduate school. One of my responsibilities was to exercise clients that had contractures. I was blown away when I saw my first contracture. A contracture is defined as “a shortening or distortion of muscular or connective tissue due to spasm, scar or paralysis of the antagonist of the contracting muscle”. A patient had been in a coma for 3 weeks…lying in a fetal position…not only could he not straighten both his arms and legs, his elbows and knees were locked tight in toward his body. It was my job to help him unfold his limbs but trying to straighten his arm was like trying to pry apart something that had been completely fused together.  Again this was a consequence of being immobile for just 21 days! That is how quickly we can lose our ability to open and close the arm at the elbow. (Think bicep curl or lifting a glass to your mouth). To a lesser degree most of us can relate to how after driving for a couple of hours we get out of the car and feel stiff.  Or when we get up in the morning we take it slowly at first and then via movement more movement becomes available to us. 

Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being, while movement and methodical physical exercise save it and preserve it.  ~Plato

There is also a natural tendency for us to conserve effort. Maybe we know intuitively that locomotion is good but as we age we seek short cuts and then pat our selves on the back (if we can reach that far) for doing less under the guise of it being more efficient. Think getting a front row parking space at the supermarket. It’s like winning a prize. Back in the day we didn’t have remote controls…so my father often called on his children to change the channels! 

If it weren't for the fact that the TV set and the refrigerator are so far apart, some of us wouldn't get any exercise at all.  ~Joey Adams

There are countless articles on how exercise staves off the aging process.  We know exercise is good for us physically and psychologically allowing us to lead richer and fuller lives. So why do we so often resist? Why is it so hard to get up and exercise?  Why do we talk ourselves out of it? What stops us from exercising? Inertia? Fear? Time constraints? Budget limitations?

Exercise should be regarded as tribute to the heart.  ~Gene Tunney

What will help to get you exercising is finding the right format….a format where the exercising itself feels good. The classic athlete may have fallen into the habit of a particular form of movement because they started at an early age. Maybe they were considered gifted.  Nothing like being rewarded from mom or dad or your peers to keep you going.  But what if you were not the “athletic type”?  What if your relationship with your body is one of constant struggle maybe because you didn’t fit into a particular sport…maybe because you don’t look like the images in magazines and movies.

“Mr. Duffy spent most of his life living a short distance from his body” (James Joyce)

The secret that keeps the athlete going is that he or she knows that exercise is empowering. It feels good! No matter your age, body type or size, exercise will empower and make you feel better. The athlete understands the empowerment of exercise.  Can we non-athletes find that same empowerment? Absolutely! Do you see your body as your enemy? Are you constantly struggling against yourself?  When your body “smarts”, do you listen?  There are many people that seem to carry their bodies around like it is unnecessary baggage.  Learning to befriend our bodies by engaging in safe and intelligent exercise is possible. Sports has become a billion dollar business but the games of youth, running, jumping, and skipping that have fostered most sports started with the idea of play.  It was fun. Then it became about community and teams and then was finessed into competitive sports etc., bottom line is that playing physical games was first seen as play…because again, the secret the athlete knows is that playing, moving the body feels good.

Physical fitness can neither be achieved by wishful thinking nor outright purchase.  ~Joseph Pilates

Dare to empower yourself through exercise, not because you’re going to be an Olympic athlete or so that you can fit into a size 0 pair of jeans but so that you’ll get more pleasure out of doing all that you do…from shopping for whatever size jeans you wear, to climbing a flight of stairs, to playing with your children and grandchildren, or to playing with your partner (wink wink nudge nudge). I have been repeatedly told that exercising has revitalized a person’s sex life.

Referring again to Jonathan Hoffman Movement Concepts, he cites FFF.  That is Fix, Foundation and Fun! If it’s broken we seek out the necessary specialist and work towards healing; that is Fix.  From there we do foundational exercises that will strengthen us and help prevent us from needing Fix; this is Foundation.  Fun is when we do those things we like recreationally.  Some examples of Fun would be skiing, shooting hoops, golfing, surfing and I’d like to add couch potato-ing! With the proper foundations we can do the Fun with a little more abandon. For example a dancer takes daily technique classes but once the performance comes around trusts the foundations that the classes have taught his or her body and just dances.

Whether you need the community of a group to aid with motivation or prefer the privacy of your home the options for exercise are many. They allow for varied budgets of both money and time.  Alan Watts eloquently said, “A living body is not a fixed thing but a flowing event…”.

Exercise to stimulate, not to annihilate. The world wasn't formed in a day, and neither were we. Set small goals and build upon them.  ~Lee Haney

Okay so what are some options for feel good exercise? How about, Pilates, yoga, CoreAlign, Tai Chi, swimming, walking, hikes in nature, spinning, dancing, fencing, or bike riding? Is there any sport that piques your interest? Do you have inspiring friends that participate in regular fitness routines?  What do they do? Please note that some of these “systems” are referred to as mind-body. However if we do any exercise with awareness it will fall into that category.  As a matter of fact moving through our daily activities with awareness is in and of itself mind-body but that’s for another essay.

There is a positive relationship between cognitive function and physical activity.  There is a relationship between boredom and aging.  Finding a physical activity that you can be enthusiastic about will add spark and energy to all that you do.  Make a move towards regular exercise…it feels good!