|Chapter 7. Exercise: You Gotta Move
For 99% of man’s existence, he has been in a life or death struggle to get enough food to survive. Our bodies
have evolved to prevail in this struggle. However, over the past few hundred years, we have achieved
overwhelming success. We have made calories cheap, easy and always available. At the same time, we have
virtually eliminated the physical struggle to obtain these calories. We face a circumstance our bodies are ill
equipped to handle–the horn of plenty described in Chapter 1. This horn of plenty creates a new threat to our
health, the threat of too much food and too little activity. Most diets, the Simply Fit Diet included, artificially limit
food and increase activity. The great substance of this book has been dedicated to diet because diet is the
largest component of weight loss. This section however, is dedicated to another essential component of fitness,
Beyond a certain age, it is virtually impossible to maintain fitness with exercise alone. Heaven knows I tried. I like
to think of myself as not too dim a man, but it wasn’t until I was 50 years old that I recognized both intellectually
and emotionally that what I put in my mouth is the largest component of the fitness equation. At least three-
quarters of weight loss comes from diet. The greatest substance of weight loss work occurs in the kitchen and
dining room, not in the gym. However, as a nation, we seem to spend three-quarters of our effort on exercise.
On the other hand, that does not mean that exercise can be ignored. Exercise helps to lower your risk of every
single disease that is related to obesity, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, depression, and cancer.
Exercise helps to prevent and control obesity. Exercise is a necessary part of the fitness equation. I like to think of
it this way, imagine you have a garden hose that won’t quite reach a tree you want to water. If you compress the
hose on one side, the water will go further, but not far enough. Only by compressing the hose on both sides can
you make the water reach your goal. Similarly, even though diet is the most important part of the fitness equation,
you will unlikely meet your fitness goal unless you compress both sides of the horn of plenty, on one side with diet
and the other with exercise (Figure 17).
|Figure 17. To most effectively become fit, you must squeeze the horn of plenty on both sides.
|The National Weight Control Registry tracks people who have lost over 30 pounds and kept the weight off for
more than one year. The members have lost an average of 66 pounds. Not surprisingly, 98% of the members
modified their food intake to lose weight. But tellingly, 94% also increased their level of physical activity,
with the most common activity being walking. Members exercise about one hour per day. The largest
database of successful dieters demonstrates that both diet and exercise are important and that about an hour of
exercise a day is desirable.
Statistics about Americans’ level of physical activity are pitiful. The American government recommends that adults
get at least 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity a week. For maximum benefit, the
government recommends 300 minutes of moderate activity or 150 minutes of vigorous activity per week. We fail
badly. Only 42.6% of women and 52.1% of men meet the minimum recommended level of exercise. Twenty-four
percent of Americans report they engaged in absolutely no exercise in the prior month.
For children, the government recommends 60 minutes of exercise per day, every day. By the time kids reach age
15, only 31% meet this level of activity on weekdays and 17% on weekends. Tellingly, however, the average child
spends 7.5 hours per day in front of a screen (TV, computer, tablet, cell phone, or entertainment media like video
games). Adults spend 8.5 hours per day in front of a screen.
Our lives are full of labor-saving devices. When you think about it, even your chair is one of them. The great
majority of our forebearers did not have comfortable chairs, they sat on the floor. Nowadays, a test the doctor can
use for fitness is how easily you can go from a standing position to sitting on the floor and back up again. Give it a
try. Do you rise easily or do you have to use your hands and knees as you struggle off the floor? Modern
Americans are far less active than our bodies are designed to be. The developer of the test says that it is a
strong predictor of mortality in middle-aged and older people. The more you need to use your hands or knees
and the more unsteady you are, the more likely it is that you will die prematurely. In the study, those who
performed best were 21% less likely to die, while those using the most support (using more than one hand or
knee on the way down and more than one hand or knee on the way up) were five times more likely to die. After
you try this test and understand its implications, you should feel more motivated to exercise. Physical activity is
natural and essential to both weight loss and overall health. On the Simply Fit Diet you should strive to do an
hour of physical activity a day.
Walking is America’s most popular activity and probably the simplest activity available. You need no special
clothes or equipment, no set time or location, and you do not need to pay fees to walk. You can just put down the
book, head outdoors and participate in one of the most natural and essential activities available. Walking can be
brisk or leisurely. It can be a solo or group activity. It can be during the day, at night, or on a break from work. It
can be for minutes or for hours. Unless your health is seriously compromised, there is no excuse for not walking.
Those who are unaccustomed to exercise will want to start out slowly. Go for a distance that is comfortable and
enjoy your walk. Simply add a little more distance every time you try. Even if you only add one or two steps a day,
soon you will be able to walk for distances you once thought unimaginable. Do not let embarrassment about your
weight or appearance stop you from getting out and exercising. You are doing this for yourself, not for an
audience. Make health your number one priority, and as you lose weight, your embarrassment will turn to pride.
A natural extension of walking is running. We are not designed to hop in cars and travel to drive-through windows
in air-conditioned comfort. That is a product of our inactive society. We are designed to pick berries, dig roots
and chase rabbits. Running is part of our natural activity. Just like walking, running can be engaged in on a very
small scale. When I started on my path to fitness, I had an injured back and three or four paces running was all I
could handle. But with each step I grew stronger. To me, there is something completely natural and harmonious
about running, something healing and healthful and different from what walking brings. Perhaps it is that the heart
beats faster, the lungs open wider, and the legs stretch longer. Perhaps the body secretes and releases
necessary hormones when you run. I do not know, but running, even for a very short distance like six steps, is a
natural, healthful human activity that I recommend for those who are fit enough to participate in it safely.
However, the best exercise is one that you will do. Everyone is different. Looking back to the activities you liked as
a child or young adult can often help you to identify an enjoyable physical activity. Did you like to bicycle as a
youth? Inexpensive bikes are available at yard sales and big box stores, why not get one and try riding again? Did
you like to swim? Most localities have public pools, and many private clubs have pools open all day. Jump in and
see how it feels. How about team sports? Were you a volleyball player or ice skater? There may be leagues you
can join to reconnect with your old interests. Countless opportunities for physical activity exist. As a matter of
health, you should pursue them. If you are at a total loss of what exercise to try, here in rank order are the most
popular ones in the U.S., according to the Census Bureau:
Exercising with equipment
Working out at a club
Time for exercise.
In our hectic world, many people complain that they have no time for exercise. For most, the time is available, it is
just not a priority. For example, the average American adult spends 8.5 hours per day in screen time. Anyone
who within the last week has watched their favorite show, played a video game, checked Facebook or sent a non-
work text message, has time to exercise. Reducing screen time and increasing physical activity will make you
Stress has an enormously negative impact on health. It increases stress hormones, speeds aging and changes
the way our bodies function. Stress relief can be found in quiet moments, keeping journals, meditation and in
exercise. Screen time tends to increase stress. Time spent in nature or with friends or animals reduces stress.
Many people see exercise time as time to put on earphones, hook up to the cell phone and continue the
electronic bombardment. Instead of keeping the steady drumbeat of music and technology, why not enjoy your
time in nature without electronic enhancement? You can then “multitask” your exercise time by adding electronics-
free stress reduction to your exercise routine.
Although the majority of weight loss comes from diet, exercise is an indispensable part of the fitness equation. An
optimal level of activity is at least one hour a day. There are countless forms of exercise, but the best exercise is
one you will do. Sometimes looking back to your youth will help you to rediscover the joy of bicycling, swimming,
skiing or some other long forgotten activity. Absent a connection to a particular form of exercise, America’s most
popular sport, walking, is a great way to start. Find time for exercise by reducing screen time, and you will soon
see gains in your overall fitness.
|All original contents copyright 2018.