Our goal at Structure House is to help participants embrace one of the most fundamental aspects of what it is to be human: Moving the Body. We are here to guide others in discovering the potential and capability each person has to bring health, empowerment, and joy to their life using movement. With this in mind here are 5 key strategies that we teach for helping people to tap in to their potential with their physical fitness – ensuring sustainability and enjoyment along the way
1. Use Exercise to Improve Health and Function
The ultimate goal of exercise is to improve one’s quality of life. Regular exercise can help us to make life easier and more enjoyable and can help prepare the body for general aspects of living, such as:
- Helping a friend move
- Taking the stairs when the elevator is out of order
- Walking the mall
- Participating in an activity without pain, such as golf or gardening
- Recovering more quickly from an orthopedic surgery
Put simply – healthy exercise helps us to trust our bodies. Also, a major reason to exercise is the many ways it brings nourishment to our body’s vital organs and systems. In truth, physical activity and nutrition are two sides of the same coin. Just as eating healthfully provides essential nutrients used by our metabolism, physical activity also plays a critical role in reducing chronic inflammation, lubricating joints, and unloading the inter-arterial pressure of our blood vessels (taking stress off of the heart).
2. Leave the Gym Feeling Better Than When You Arrived
Gone are the days when leaving the gym dog tired and nearly broken was the standard minimum guidelines. Nowadays, we know better. One of the best reasons to exercise is to feel better afterward and to help manage stress. With a proper amount of exercise, dopamine levels increase as do many anti-inflammatory markers within the body, which can leave one with a sense of well-being both mentally and physically. The key is to start at a place that gives the proper amount of physical load, without pushing our physical limits and introducing pain. Increasing frequency of exercise at high intensity levels, especially early in your program, will be counterproductive. Overstressing the body will only lead to a greater tendency for you to get hurt, setting you back even more. Alas, the goal of exercise is to feel good and energized when you’re done, not exhausted, sore and in pain.
3. Exercise is Nourishment, NOT Punishment
Not every workout should be at maximal effort. There are certainly times where it is ok to push your physical limits, but these are quite rare. Higher intensity physical exertion is quite helpful in many ways, but these bouts are short in length and should be balanced out with plenty of lower-level movement.
We need to learn to let go of the idea that nutrition is all about restrictingand exercise is all about punishment. Nutrition and exercise happen to both be about nourishment. Working with your body instead of against it will lead to much better health and fitness in both the short and long term.
4. Exercise Should Be Enjoyable (or At Least Tolerable)
What a novel idea! There are a million and a half ways to formally exercise, and then many more than that to informally move your body. The key is to find a variety of ways that you like to move, which may mean trying new activities so that you can learn how to meet your fitness preferences. Aside from the actual types of exercise you like to do, consider the environment you like as well. Do you like to be outdoors? In a group? With a personal trainer? Remember, the most successful exercise program is the one you want to do. So, put some thought into finding your own fitness style. We should aim to take the power out of exercise and look at it in a different way. Instead of a daunting task designed to punish, it is simply another part of what it takes to take better care of the body we are given.
5. Consistency is More Important than Intensity
Consistency is the most important factor for long-term success. Only once a consistent exercise habit is in place can we begin to tinker with the intensity of the workouts. But even then, the intensity on any one given day will never trump the practice of being consistent over time. Some workouts you will naturally feel like working harder, but there may be times where all you need to do is show up and get something done.
In summary – regular movement is as necessary for optimal health as is balanced nutrition. But, finding exercise that you look forward to and that feels good will be key for ensuring consistency and enjoyment with your activities, thus promoting lifelong fitness. So, start exploring and see for yourself!