I want you to take a look at a graph. I know it’s a tired old subject – Obesity in America – it’s a bit outdated (2006), but I want you to take a look.
I don’t know what you see, but I see something that I think we all intuitively know without being told: once you hit your post-teen years, the likelihood is that you will put on some extra pounds. In fact, if you are John or Jane Q. Public, there is a 66% probability that you will be overweight or obese with a 50/50 shot of being one or the other.
I know…doom and gloom.
But I want you to look at the chart again. See what it says about 6 – 19 year old kids? Out of every 100 kids, the probability is that less than 20 are overweight. Even better is the recent study that shows kids aged 2 – 5 have seen a 43% drop in obesity rates shifting from 13.9% to 8.4% of that population.
Now there are many reasons and excuses we older folks (30’s, 40’s and older) can give to justify why we aren’t as slim and fit as our sub-20 year old counterparts – slower metabolism is a reasonable one I suppose, but here’s one that isn’t reasonable: our jobs/busy lives don’t allow time for working out. Well, that may be true, but how many elementary and junior high school kids do you know that “work out”?
Yes, there may be some – in fact, I have two clients that are middle school students, but they are, I think, more the exception than the rule.
I will also give you that their metabolisms are working overtime pouring energy into helping their bodies grow, but there is something else these kids do…
Whether it’s chasing each other around on the playground or climbing up and over a wall to get to or get away from something, kids are using their bodies to move their bodies through space.
I want you to think back to when you were in elementary and/or middle school (for me that goes waaaay back to the 70’s and early 80’s). When I was that age, video games were just starting to go mainstream and the only portable device was the Sony Walkman, which at $100 was out of my family’s price range, so for most of us, we had to entertain ourselves outdoors, running, chasing, climbing, shimmying…
We were working out, we just didn’t know it. We incorporated daily physical exertion into our lives, consistently moving our muscles in a fashion that promoted increased strength, mobility and endurance.
So, what’s my point? How does this apply to us, some 25 – 35 years later? What does this mean to a 40, 50 or 60 year old (or a 20 or 30 for that matter)?
We can’t just go to the playground and start playing – a) we may not have the time and b) authorities may not take too kindly to an adult playing on the jungle gym.
We need to find ways to bring movement that requires exertion back into our daily lives somehow.
But how does one do that?
By obstaclizing your environment (yes, I know I just made up a word – if you can come up with something better, I will use that instead).
This is what I have done just recently to obstaclize my life:
- I have a refrigerator in the basement where I keep many of the groceries I get from Costco – 6 packs of lettuce, double packs of eggs, butter, etc. I usually need to get something out of that refrigerator 3 or 4 times a day. I put a chin up/dip bar right next to the refrigerator with the understanding that if I need anything out of that refrigerator, I will be required to pay either 10 dips or as many chin ups as I can do.
- A week or so ago, a friend of mine ask me if I wanted a ProFit Iron Gym she had acquired but had no use for. I had wanted one for a while so I gladly accepted. The Iron Gym is one of those “As Seen On TV” gadgets that allow you to set up a chin up/pull up bar in any doorway without having to screw anything in. I placed this next to the door to the garage with the understanding that every time I go into the garage, whether I am driving away or just grabbing something, I will jump up and do as many chin ups as I can.
These little mini-workouts don’t take a lot of time – an extra 30 seconds here, 20 seconds there, but at the end of the day, I’ve added anywhere from 40 to 80 or more repetitions of a full body weight movement that is reminiscent of the activities I used to do when I was a little kid.
I am now trying to come up with other obstacles I can place around the house – perhaps a squat station with light kettle bell by the laundry machine or a couple of dumbbells for hammer curls next to the linen closet? maybe a 60 second plank enter my office?
Will it make a difference? I have no scientific study or data to give you. I will tell you that my neutral grip chin up has improved 60% in 2 weeks – that rate will drop dramatically, but change is a happenin’!
Can these obstacles replace good diet and a regular exercise program? No. But at the very least, they can get your body to remember what it’s like to be active.
What about you? Can you spare 30 seconds here or 20 seconds there? Even if it’s just doing 5 push ups every time you walk into your bedroom, or 10 air squats before leaving the house. If you have any suggestions, I would love to hear them.