Lift harder. Run faster. Jump higher. Why do we associate exercise with pushing our bodies to the extreme? It’s because the fitness industry drives narratives of smashing “personal bests” and “coming back stronger than ever,” as if we’re all-star athletes training for the Olympics. Go hard or go home. Go hard or go harder. But all most of us want is to keep fit and live a little longer. So why do we track treadmill runs? Or define our fitness goals by numbers on weight stacks? Are we exercising “wrong?”
Evolutionary biologist Daniel Lieberman explores this concept in “Exercised: The Science of Physical Activity, Rest, and Health.” Lieberman debunks the fitness myths we grew up hearing — misconceptions that pervade locker rooms and gym classes in most Western countries. Think that running at a regular pace wrecks your knees? It’s not true. Or that walking isn’t a “real” exercise? Nope, not true either. Or that exercise alone won’t help you lose weight? It’s fake news.
But it’s lies like these that prevent us from wanting to keep fit. Why bother walking to the store if there are no health benefits? We’ll jump in the car. Why run in the park if we’re going to need a knee operation? We’ll sit on the couch.
What’s the Science?
After assessing countless scientific studies, Lieberman realized our perceptions of exercise come from mistruths, misconceptions, and misunderstandings. (And just plain old lies.) It’s no wonder we find keeping fit unpleasant. Our relationship with exercise is needs an update.
So is there a “correct” way to exercise? Lieberman suggests finding a physical exercise we enjoy. And for most of us, enjoyment doesn’t come from lugging heavy dumbbells or running mini-marathons on the treadmill. So jog around the block. Walk your dog in the park. Go for a swim. Dance like nobody’s watching. These are all forms of real exercise. (But Gold’s Gym won’t tell you that.)
It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you do enough of it. That’s the secret to keeping fit. It’s what humans have been doing for centuries — long before protein shakes and SoulCycle. But even then, anything is better than nothing. We know it’s tempting to lock yourself away at home right now, but you can exercise pretty much anywhere, even on your kitchen floor.
The True Benefits of Exercise
Some people think that the only benefit of exercise is looking good. But there’s so much more to it than that:
- It promotes better sleep.
- It improves mental health.
- It boosts energy.
- It makes you feel happier.
- It structures your day/week.
- It prevents you from being sedentary.
- It gives you something to do during lockdown.
Lieberman also recommends building motivation by exercising with other people. So jog, walk, swim, dance, or do something you enjoy with someone else. That’s also great for your mental health.
And don’t let anyone tell you that your exercise isn’t proper exercise.
Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Foundation has a wide range of support services for people who work in theatrical exhibition. Learn more here.