Hey friends, and welcome to this episode of HGTV. In the next 5 minutes I’ll share my answer on the question, “How much do you need to exercise?” and offer an answer that I hope shifts your perspective on the role of exercise in your life.
As always, I’m starting with science. According to the World Health Organization, adults aged 18-65:
- Should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity throughout the week, or do at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity throughout the week, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity.
- For additional health benefits, adults should increase their moderate-intensity physical activity to 300 minutes per week, or equivalent.
- Muscle-strengthening activities should be done involving major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week.
While those are the minimum-standard guidelines from the World Health Organization, their website also says that 1 in 4 adults is not active enough. Now why is that?
My theory is that as a society we’ve fundamentally misused exercise and the role that it plays in our lives, and we’ve stripped movement of its inherent power to create joy and fun. When my dad was sick with diabetes, every single one of his doctors and specialists told him to exercise. It’s good for you, they’d say, which after all – is entirely true! But if someone feels trapped in a body they feel isn’t working for them, why would they be inspired to work for it?
One of the reasons that I’m passionate about applying to fitness to life outside of the gym is because it affords us opportunities to explore the world around us, to embrace our bodies and our abilities. I’ve always tried to use the work that we do in the gym as a way to enhance our experiences outside of the gym.
It’s all about using exercise science as a tool – a piece of technology, really – to elevate our experience of movement outside of the gym. Exercise is about developing the physical tools, the metabolic capacity, with which we engage with the world around us. So when the question is, “How much do you need to exercise?” the answer is, “As much as necessary to support the life of your design.”
I can’t think of a single person in the world, other than fitness professionals, who get excited at the prospect of doing:
- 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity.
- 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity.
- Muscle-strengthening activities 2 or more days per week.
Those numbers are superb for epidemiologists and silly for everyone else. Who gets excited about that? Nobody!
I keep referring to Gray Cook’s meditation that “Activity is Diet, Exercise Is Supplement.” The goal, if there even is one, should be to create a life rich with diverse movement opportunities, allowing us to fully experience what our bodies are capable of.
Doing 75 minutes of vigorous intensity physical activity throughout the week might help prevent you from dying, and add a few years to your life, but I don’t think that focusing on “not dying” is going to add any life to your years.
What if we were to Instead focus on moving in ways that fulfill us, participating in the recreation or leisure activities that truly bring us joy, living an active lifestyle – and then supplementing that active lifestyle with an appropriate amount of exercise to support our health.
While the fitness industrial complex is busy thinking of ways to convince people to exercise more, I offer you this dissenting opinion: Our personal goal should be to move more and exercise less.
Move more and exercise less.
So, how much do you need to exercise? As little as necessary, if you’re moving as much as possible.
Now I’m fully aware that most of the world is currently restricting social interaction because of the coronavirus pandemic, and I hope we continue to follow our local guidelines. And, that means that this is the perfect time to think about how we can more intentionally live a movement-rich lifestyle as disease spread is controlled and restrictions are lifted.
Y’all know that my preferred recreation activity is mountain biking, but if right now I went full-out planning a week of recreation, I’d include hiking, rock climbing, badminton, frisbee, lacrosse, golf, kayaking… I mean literally if I could have a full-time job of being physically active, I would, there are so many different and uniquely rewarding recreational activities available to us!
After Coronavirus, I know.
So, how much do you need to exercise? As much exercise as necessary to supplement your diet of physical activity.
Rather than focusing on the inherently limited scope of exercise, instead focus on breath of opportunities available when it comes to physical activity, recreation, and leisure activities. Focus on fun, joyful, and meaningful activities. Find ways to lift your heart and soul, and spend your energy on that – and I trust that you won’t ever have to worry about how much exercise is enough again.
Alright friends, that’s it for this episode of HGTV – thanks for joining me! I’d love to know about the movement that speaks to YOU the most, so please let me know what experiences get you the most excited. There’s also a chance that you’re sitting there thinking, “Fuck, Harold, I don’t do anything outside of the gym!” and that’s okay, too – send me a message and let’s chat if you’re interested!
As always, you can watch these words on Instagram. Cheers!