Everyman's Exercise

Most concede, “Exercise is good for you.” Each year Americans spend $28 billion on supplements. Yet, no supplement or organic food comes close to exercise’s effectiveness. Evidence demonstrates that “all types and degrees of physical activity protect or probably protect against common cancers” – including colon, breast, and endometrial (uterine).

Many interject, “I just don’t have time.” Can you spare a minute? Just fifteen minutes of exercise per day reduces your risk of death by 14%. The Economist cheekily observes, “One sure giveaway of quack medicine is the claim that a product can treat any ailment. There are, sadly, no panaceas. But some things come close, and exercise is one of them.”

To some, the word exercise connotes strenuous activity, the realm of athletes and Olympians. Experts denounce this notion. Gardening, chores, taking the stairs instead of elevators, and walking all classify as quality exercise. Twenty-two minutes per day should be the bare minimum.

Millennia ago, Aristotle appealed to moderation in exercise: “A master of any art avoids excess and defect, but seeks the intermediate… the intermediate relative to [the individual].” You can become a master.

Walking

Walking is the most versatile exercise. Its benefits sound like quack medicine. “Walking could ward off dementia and mental decline.” A mile a day (15 to 20 minutes) cuts your risk in half. “Walking boosts memory power.” This study found that the hippocampus – the brain region responsible for memory and emotion – grows in regular walkers. It shrinks in the indolent. The lead researcher concluded, “We think of the atrophy of the hippocampus in later life as almost inevitable. But we've shown that even moderate exercise for one year can increase the size of that structure.”

Nike Training Club

Exercise: There’s an app for that. If you have an iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad, Nike Training Club is a superlative exercise program. It is ideal for small spaces, such as a bedroom, or for when your host cultural disproves of outdoor activity. Choose your level: beginner, intermediate, or advanced. A personal trainer guides you through 15 to 45 minutes of strengthening, stretching, and/or cardio. The app is free.

Interval training

Interval training dramatically improves fitness. The regime was designed to train professional athletes. Some thought interval training too intense for the average person. Modern research concludes that its principles are apt for the everyman. It works for walkers, cyclists, runners, and swimmers; you can use it in conjunction with skipping ropes, stairs, and jumping jacks. Below is a simple workout. Alternate a period of low intensity with a period of higher intensity.

  • 5-minute warm up (light jog, low intensity, gradually increasing at the end of the warm up period)
  • 1-minute moderate or high intensity followed by 1-minute low intensity. Repeat 6 - 8 times.
  • 5-minute cool down (light jog, low intensity, gradually decreasing by the end of the cool down period)

Above all, enjoy yourself. Pick an activity that suits your personality and abilities. By persevering, you can master the art of physical activity.

"A man ought to take exercise not because he is too fat, but because he loves hunting or horses or high mountains, and love them for their own sake." – G. K. Chesterton, Heretics