Infomercials continually tell us that health and fitness come through acquiring a new gadget, ingesting potent supplements, studying a fashionable book, or following the diet du jour. Many people are confused by the competing market claims and don’t know who to believe. Frustration drives many to try the latest “new and improved” product, hoping for quick results. The bad news is that this rarely works. The good news is that they could find fitness naturally by applying three basic principles.
There are four basic exercise science fundamentals that will bring success naturally when they are understood and followed.
First is the Principle of Reversibility. We either continue to use our bodies in activities that keep us strong and fit, or with disuse, we lose what we have. For example, we stretch everyday or find ourselves much less flexible than in previous years.
Second is the Principle of Specificity. We participate in activities specific to our goals. For, example, if we want to become a better cyclist, we ride our bike, rather than swim.
Third is the Principle of Progression. We gradually use our bodies in new activities, giving them time to adapt. For example, we develop the habit of walking for twenty minutes at a time, and then gradually add ten or fifteen more minutes over the course of several weeks.
Fourth is the Principle of Individuality. Each of us takes to activities than feel right for us. We each enjoy the unique way our body responds and adapts to that activity. In conclusion, fitness comes naturally when we do activity on a regular basis that meets our goals, that progresses appropriately, and enhances our physical well-being.
There are two additional fitness fundamentals needed for “natural” fitness. Adequate sleep and good nutrition are just as important as the fitness activity itself. Sleep allows the natural restorative process to take place in our body, healing tissues broken down during exercise. Good nutrition is the fuel that facilitates that healing process. For example, along with weight training exercise, adequate calories are the cornerstones for building muscle and strength. Contrary, to popular myth, these calories can certainly come from a high-quality, “plant-based” diet with neither large amounts of animal protein nor processed protein shakes. Quality sleep is a free, natural fitness enhancer, and wholesome, nutrient-filled, “real” food is a low cost way to naturally fuel your workouts.
Fitness comes naturally to us when our activity becomes functional.
Think of what you do occupationally or recreationally, then match your exercise to these areas. Do you need to lift heavy objects while on your feet? If so, when you go to the gym to lift weights, do as many of the exercises as you can in a standing position. Fitness can come naturally without the use of expensive equipment. The weight of your own body can be the resistance for many exercises. Remember the old-fashioned push-up? It still is a great “natural” fitness tool.
Since many of us sit for long hours at our jobs, we experience a subtle loss of balance on a daily basis because our bodies are not moving us in an upright position. Balance can be restored through standing exercises where we must balance on one leg or on an inexpensive tool such as a rocker board. Also, as we sit more, we lose “core-strength” in our abdominal and low back areas. We lose flexibility, as well. Exercise programs such as Pilates and yoga can help restore what has been lost, and simple exercises done on mats and large balance balls can bring back functional flexibility and core strength.
Fitness comes naturally when our activity is fun. Everyday look for opportunities for recreation and activity both indoors and outdoors. Find the scenario that best suits you and that brings you enjoyment and pleasure. Delight in the social interaction that accompanies a hike in the woods with friends or family. Get to know the other people in your fitness class, in the studio, or the pool. If you have fun riding your bike, you might find commuting on it beats fuming in a traffic jam – mental health bonus! Embrace the great variety of exercise classes, exercise videos, recreational opportunities, and fitness equipment options that are so readily available to naturally bring fitness into our lives. Finally, revive that childlike attitude of play in every activity you enjoy. Create your own fun-filled, activity-driven “mini-vacation,” a temporary diversion from everyday stresses and problems.
Embrace fitness as fun, however you may define that. For some that may be the thrill of a new, intensely challenging exercise, such as training for a marathon, and for others it may be the casual activity of splashing in the pool with your laughing children. Whatever suits your fitness needs, let it come naturally and enjoy every moment.
Keep moving with an attitude of joy, and health and fitness will be your companion.