Exercise is defined as: an activity requiring physical effort, carried out to sustain or improve physical health. That’s actually two ideas: The activity itself is an idea, and the reason to do it is the second idea. Humans historically have probably always done physical activity in order to obtain food or supplies which in effect sustains physical health. But I’m not sure that until recently we people have exercised for the sake of exercise unless they were recovering from illness.
Everyone agrees that exercise is good for people, what they don’t agree on is how much or when or what kinds.
Over the years I have personally found that too much physical activity actually, -hurt- my health rather than helped. I once tried playing squash. As well as injuring my wrist, I was physically ill for several days. For me too much physical activity could be as simple as going for a bike ride. This kind of ‘overexertion’ could lead to several weeks of recovery. It drove me nuts how all of the experts went on about how important exercise was but when I tried to do it I was always found myself more ill than I had been before I started.
Eventually I realized that what I defined as exercise was just too much for me. I couldn’t run, lift, do yoga, ride a bike or do anything else that other people thought of as physical activity. I had to tone it way down. Just like people recovering from surgery have to build up to normal activity my years of illness had made me weak. And my attempts to force myself to exercise were injuring my body and causing setbacks.
My mom and I stopped walking purposefully and started strolling. These strolls involved a lot of standing around and looking at flowers. They were short, sometimes as short as 10 or 15 minutes. I felt embarrassed that such tiny amounts of activity would wear me out. Sometimes in the winter just going outside was too much for me so I would walk up and down our hallway a few times instead. Or do some dishes. I found that a few 10 or 15 minute sessions of movement in a day were better than a hard session of exercise every few days. I couldn’t call it exercise. It barely counted as movement, but after about a year I noticed that I didn’t get exhausted from these short periods of activity. In fact our strolls had become more like short walks, with less pauses and I could do all of the dishes, not just half of them, before sitting down to rest.
I also started doing some shoulder stretches to help with my posture. They were pretty basic and I never did more than a few at a time. But I did do them more than once a day. Again it turned out that doing one or two stretches once in the morning and once in the afternoon was better than doing a lot of stretching all at once.
I am not strong. I am not up to bike riding or playing tennis, but I am stronger. I can also make it through a day of laundry, dishes and cooking. I can walk a few miles as long as it’s not too hot and I can carry fifty pounds for short distances. I realize it’s not the Olympics.
Doctors and experts have made the definition of exercise, one size fits all, and I made the mistake of believing them. But exercise can encompass any kind of movement that a person dose to improve or maintain health. I am not ever going to be as strong as strong as my boyfriend, however I do hope to become as strong as I can be, and that will have to be enough.
Has anyone else found that ‘exercise” is not for them?