When did exercise become a mandatory component of fitness? Maybe when Henry Ford put the world behind the wheel in 1908, or when elevators downgraded stairwells to nothing more than emergency means of escape in 1870.
Regardless of when exactly it happened, somewhere along the line moving without fitness in mind became “pre-industrial,” and a deliberate regime of moving became exercise. Since then, we have become sedentary—with disastrous health ramifications. And your training plan doesn’t exempt you.
“Even those with excellent exercise habits spend most of their non-exercise time not moving,” biomechanist Katy Bowman says in a recent Breaking Muscle article. “When we’ve checked the exercise box, we perceive ourselves as active, but it is the almost-all-day stillness that is the problem.”
Exercise helps you stay fit, but it doesn’t replace staying active. A recently published study in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health showed that exercise doesn’t cancel out the effects of sitting all day. And studies in the Scandinavian Journal of Public Health went even farther: The authors suggest you spend less time training intensely so that you have the energy to remain active between workouts.
“When people exercise less, they have more energy to be active for the rest of the day,” says lead author of the SJPH study, Anne Sofie Gram in a Science Nordic article.
Yes, it sounds like sacrilege. But taking it a little easier or lessening your obsession with total rest seems to make those healthier choices easier. Ultimately, your body doesn’t know whether you are on a treadmill or a trail, or if you are lifting a barbell or a bag of groceries. All it knows is that it was made for the movement. And lots of it.