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What counts as exercise?

How you define exercise? Is it just something to do in a gym? Is it taking to the pool or to the track? See what counts as exercise. Once you get going, you’ll find exercise in surprising places! Read more about natural ways to improve your health.

Exercise is about how you get your heart and lungs pumping, strengthen your muscles, and stretch everything out in the ordinary activities of everyday life (especially relevant now!). Ironically, a lot of these opportunities fall under the heading of tasks, often ones we dread or put off doing! Why should you care? Almost daily, some new study reveals another health benefit of regular exercise. Many experts call it the a great way to manage both physical and mental health.

How do you define exercise?

When we bring a new perspective to how we see or define things it is called “reframing” or “changing the narrative.” Think of daily chores as workouts! Long before I started reframing many of my daily chores as workouts, I’d learned the essentials of cardio workouts, strengthening exercises and flexibility well enough that I knew how to tailor the work at hand to adapt to my current abilities. Those basic heart pumping, weight lifting and stretch warm ups and cool downs can be adapted into our daily routine, and give us greater health.

Remember the rules of exercise:

  1. Start slow. Work up to faster, heavier work gradually, over a period of days or weeks, especially if you’re out of shape.

  2. Then, keep it up. Your body “detrains” quickly if you don’t require your muscles to move, lift, and stretch at their current capacity on a regular basis.

Change it around often:

  1. Do 10 to 30 minutes of a job that requires what I call the grunt-work (lifting and hauling, moving heavy stuff around). Lift safely!

  2. Then switch to some huff-’n’-puff work where you work up a sweat (rake leaves or mow the lawn fast).

  3. Then finish off with some work that encourages stretching and bending (hanging laundry, weeding a garden).

Or, alternate the days on which you do various kinds of work. Too long, too hard, or too frequent a spell of a single activity may overwork some muscle-tendon systems, resulting in overuse injuries. What counts as exercise in everyday life? The answer: pretty much anything. Once you get going, you’ll find exercise in surprising places. For me, in my rural environment, I’d include:

  • Shoveling and spreading mulch around the gardens and berry bushes. A little strength work, a little huff-’n’-puff.

  • Pruning and hauling brush. Slow aerobics.

  • Buying groceries. Brisk 1,000 steps around the store, placing items in my cart as I go.

  • Running up and down stairs putting things away. In a three-story house with a basement, up with only a few items at a time, then down for more.

  • Splitting and stacking wood. Strength work. Need to have built upper body strength to begin.

  • Hanging laundry. Stretching and bending.

  • Mowing the lawn. Yes, a gas-fired power mower, but I take it fast, and our lawn has hills.

  • Raking leaves (also mopping floors). Put on some music, recite a rhyme or poem and pick up the pace.

  • Planting/watering vegetables. Good opportunity for stretching.

  • Hoeing vegetables. Big garden lets me work up a sweat.

  • Shoveling snow. Grunt-and-groan or work-up-a-sweat work, depending on pace, how deep and heavy the snow is, etc.

  • Lifting heavier items (not too heavy) to help with muscle strength and bone density.

  • Scrubbing floors and windows, vacuuming or sweeping floors.

This year I was able to help out a little with the Community Garden at the St Jacobs site of WCHC. It was rewarding in many ways, and when I first started bending and stretching and yanking - I realized I was sore because those were some muscles I hadn't used too often. I didn't have a garden at home this year, so I was out of practice, and so were those muscles!

Remember, being outdoors is also excellent for our physical and mental well-being! If your chores and tasks are indoors on a certain day - open the doors and windows and let in the sun and fresh air! (of course, not so much in winter) Take advantage of the weather to be outdoors as often as possible. Reframing your chores as exercise won’t win you the hero status you’d get from completing a Marathon or hiking a Trail or climbing a Mountain. but hey, you may come to appreciate those once-dreaded tasks as you build a stronger, faster-moving, more flexible physical body and healthier mental clarity. Enjoy!


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