• Anessa Madera

Exercise Smarter not Harder

Updated: Jun 15

I want to talk about a way of thinking about exercise that I’ve watched emerge over the years as a type of exercise culture or ‘attitude’ in our society through my experience as a therapist and interactions with my clients.

There has been a major push in our society over recent years to get active. There are gym and exercise facilities opening up left, right and centre and we are getting the message from our government, from doctors, from trainers, from so many sources that we need to get off our couch and our office chairs and get moving.

This message in essence is great and we definitely all need to be striving for higher activity levels. We live in a world where the continual growth of technology means that the basic tasks of daily living like cooking, cleaning and getting from place to place is so convenient and involves so little manual labour that without implemented forms of exercise we are moving way less than ever before.

What I’ve noticed, however, that I think is not helpful, when speaking to clients and in general when observing fitness movements is, first of all, an underlying sense of guilt or preoccupation around lack of exercise as well as a belief that we need to aim for extreme fitness; exercise really hard and super often in order to be healthy.

I’ve had clients come in who believe that their neck pain is purely a result of not exercising enough.. Pain and injury are complex and it is never as simple as needing to exercise more. Often it’s a lot more about how you move, how stable and mobile you are in your joints and not about how many stair-runs you managed to squeeze into your week.

I’ve also had clients that have hurt themselves or just experience pain in their bodies generally, because of how hard they are training and the demanding sports they’re involved in. Now, to clarify; there is absolutely nothing wrong with training really hard and playing a sport if you genuinely love to do these things. In this case, it becomes a matter of taking as best care of your body as you can, learning to move well, building strength and mobility; conditioning yourself to cope with the demands of your activity. What concerns me however is that this doesn’t seem to always be the reason for the extreme exercising. I come back to the attitude that hard exercise is the only lifestyle that is healthy - that we need to sweat like crazy, barely be able to walk after our activity, train 7 days a week twice a day to make up for sitting at a desk. This isn’t always healthy.

We need to get really clear about the distinction between moving more and striving for higher levels of daily activity. It has most definitely become necessary to be conscious about moving more since we now live in a world where we can quite easily survive without having to move, but, how you implement this into your life is entirely dependent on your specific goals. Exercise smarter, not harder!

If for example, you work for most of the day seated at a desk and you are having trouble managing your weight and your back hurts and your goals are to feel more comfortable in your skin, you don’t need to become a competitive Crossfit athlete to or start training for an Ironman.

Learning how to breathe correctly, getting a sit to stand desk and walking to work are strategies that better match up to your goals. By all means, become an Ironman if that appeals to you but it’s not necessary in order to lose weight or improve your back pain.

If your goal is to move more, decrease your pain levels and improve your health, my message to you is;

  1. Find an activity that you genuinely enjoy and fit it into your routine in a way that is sustainable. (Does anyone love stairs?)

  2. Learn how to become a better mover and be more body aware; about how breathing and your core should really work for example.

  3. For whatever activity you decide you like, building a base level of strength in your body with resistance training is essential for preventing injury and participating in that activity safely sustainably. Strength activity will also assist in maintaining bone density and muscle mass as you age.

It really is as simple as that! At Muscle Medicine we pride ourselves on educating our clients about their bodies and movement. We can help you narrow down your goals and guide you into the type and frequency of movement training you need in order to reach these goals, removing the guesswork.

So if you want to train for an Ironman, a marathon, run your first 10k or simply move a little more to make yourself feel better come and see us. Let us know you have a goal to focus on and we’ll work with you to get you there!