Is there anything better than going to the gym and performing heavy squats, followed by hundreds of press-ups, and finally finishing with treadmill sprints until you feel your breakfast coming back up?

No? 

Funnily enough, there are very few people in this world who would enjoy doing something so intense, including us at Health By Science (except maybe Ross).

But even if the squats weren’t so heavy, and it was only ten press-ups, and treadmill sprints was more of a brisk walk, we generally still don’t seem to like exercise.

You don’t have to dig deep into the science to find the benefits of exercise. Conventional exercise is generally seen as going to a gym and performing resistance and cardio movements. It has been shown to lower the risks of many diseases like coronary heart disease and diabetes. It has also proved to help with pain, and improve people’s sense of wellbeing. And still, most of us don’t like it. Why?

(Wo)Man was not made to exercise

Arguably the main excuse is that we’re too lazy. Exercise is hard and requires effort, so clearly because we can’t be bothered, we must be lazy. And to an extent, this is quite accurate. Evolutionary speaking that is.

Over the course of thousands of years, the human body has adapted and changed in many ways. Our bodies have always looked to protect itself. Back when we were hunter-gatherers, the supply of calories was much less than what it is now, so maintaining energy was essential. This meant that the body looked to store and keep calories as much as possible, so any energy used needed to be necessary, e.g. chasing/running from a Saber-tooth tiger. 

Obviously, things are very different now, but the body is still looking to minimise energy expenditure as much as possible. So exercising doesn’t make sense for survival reasons; why would our bodies expend loads of energy if there’s no immediate, life-saving reward. 

This also helps explain why we cheat when not concentrating on particular exercises. On a subconscious level, we’re always looking to do the more accessible, less energy-consuming version.

So basically, we’re all naturally lazy. Back in the day, this helped us to survive, but in this modern age, we have an abundance of energy (e.g. calories) available to us. Now being lazy won’t help us to survive, instead, being lazy can cause serious harm to our health.

The problem with exercise 

However, the knowledge that we may suffer disease and ailments in the future isn’t the most potent motivator to get us to join a gym and exercise. Especially when Nana Phyllis smoked 20 a day and drank a bottle of vodka every night and lived until she was 100. She didn’t do any exercise!

Exercise has also not always been shown to work for everyone. Much of this can comes down to unrealistic expectation, where an individual expects specific outcomes. This can be demotivating when putting in the hard work but not seeing the immediate results. There are also many of us who find exercise boring. The thought of going to a gym and doing a monotonous exercise over and over again can be uninspiring.

Exercise certainly can’t be blanketed as good for everyone. On the other hand, movement most certainly can be proclaimed as vital to us all.

Enjoyable movement for all! 

Exercise is movement, but movement isn’t necessarily exercise. Exercise is an incredibly effective way of working the full body in a variety of ways in a relatively short amount of time. But there are many other ways in which we can move.

If someone doesn’t enjoy exercise, they have many other avenues of movement they can choose instead. Sports like football, basketball and racket sports are excellent choices. Dancing is another form of movement which is challenging but can be great fun. Nordic ski-ing might be difficult to do here in Edinburgh, but its still great movement. 

Movement has to be challenging at times, to encourage the body to adapt and become stronger. But the more fun someone has moving, the more likely they are to do it consistently. As goals become more specific, then the movement needs to become more specific. So if someone wants to run a marathon, then they need to make sure they’re running. However, for general health and fitness, the most important factor is finding an activity that’s fun, and that it makes you huff and puff a little.