July 23, 2024

#4 The Fitness Myth

Maybe you’ve said this before…”I need to lose weight.  I’m just gonna start working out like crazy!”

Good luck with that.  Regular, consistent exercise is FANTASTIC for a thousand different things…weight loss just isn’t anywhere near the top of the list.  Effective weight loss is the result of creating a deficit between the calories consumed and the calories burned through metabolism and exercise.  Pick your own poison, but focusing my energy on how I could clean up my nutrition was considerably more efficient and sustainable than “working out like crazy.”  With the idea of “80% nutrition and 20% fitness” as our framework, we can shift our expectations of results.

Don’t go getting any crazy ideas here.  I didn’t say exercise is a waste of time.  Far from it.  I’ve just seen it a thousand times…people putting weight loss expectations on exercise that it just isn’t capable of delivering.  Queue the frustration after a hard week of pain and suffering while abusing your friend’s guest pass to 24 Hour Fitness.  But all is not lost friends.  Remember that we’re here to focus on longevity and vitality…adding years to our life and life to our years. Would you like to have more energy?  Better flexibility and balance?  More stamina?  Improved sleep?  A healthier heart?  A sunnier disposition?  If you said yes, then exercise IS your key to the kingdom.

So let’s tweak the notion that exercise is this necessary evil to lose weight. In reality most of that heavy lifting is done in the kitchen anyway as I’ll demonstrate.  For the sake of the 80/20 framework, the BIG benefit after a certain age should be to become “functionally fit.”  That means that the focus of exercise becomes not about how much you can bench press or how bulgy your biceps, but ALL about being able to carry out the day to day physical requirements of life ranging from walking, pushing, pulling, bending, squatting, reaching and moving objects…you know, the activities we’ll all need to continue to perform throughout our 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and beyond.  It may not be as glamorous as sporting nicely toned upper arms and a stout booty, but it does equate to easily making a trip to the grocery store, carrying your bags, grabbing things from up on a shelf, getting in and out of your car, taking the stairs, getting down on the floor to play with your grandkids…AND being able to easily get back up again.

The idea of being “functionally fit” should be a top priority.  The good news for most of us is that you don’t need a gym membership to get your reps with these motions, but you do have to be intentional about it.  As stated in a previous column, a consistent walking routine is a great place to start.   Whether you’re pulling into work or out shopping, make it your intention to park in the outer areas of the parking lot (in one of those open spaces reserved for people who practice being functionally fit 😉) and enjoy the extra steps on the way in.

The workplace is likely where we spend a good portion of our time, so let’s be intentional about being in motion.  If you’re lucky enough to have a job that requires a fair share of physical movement, your functionally fit exercise is baked right into your day.  Now, it’s just about being mindful and deliberate in your movements to avoid injury.  If your work keeps you sedentary for long stretches of the day, set a reminder on your watch or phone to get up and walk for 10 minutes a couple times per day on your breaks. If you can incorporate a staircase or incline in that walk all the better.  While you’re out doing that, go ahead and remember to breathe too…nice and deep, in through the nose and out through the mouth.  Stay hydrated and enjoy your time and space away from your desk.

For bonus points, set a reminder to rise up out of your chair every 30 minutes or so and stretch your arms up, slowly roll your neck back and take a deep breath. Slowly roll your shoulders a few times forward and back, bend at the hips and squat down once or twice.  It’s okay to use your desk as support if you need to.  You’ll be surprised to feel the relief of tension in your neck and joints as well as a nice pump in your circulation, providing you with a little boost of energy and clarity.  Now do it again tomorrow and the next day.

Outside of the workplace, keep that walking commitment going and think about expanding your functional fitness with leisure time activities like enjoying a casual bike ride, playing with the dog, starting a small garden, playing backyard games like cornhole, doing the robot…whatever way you enjoy moving your body and increasing your motion.  With these simple modifications to your daily routine you will more than cover your 20% fitness without ever having to set foot in a gym.  Of course, if you’re going for a personal physical result (say bulging biceps) or are training for a specific event, your physical output and percentage of time spent exercising will be considerably higher and very structured.

Above and beyond the current and future benefits of staying functionally fit, if weight loss is on your self-improvement list, consider the comparison chart below as to the power of the 80/20 philosophy.  As you can see, you’ll create a far greater daily calorie deficit by controlling the calories coming in than by the calories burned by exercise.  The amount of consistent exercise you’d have to COMMIT to is MASSIVE…and we all know how that usually ends up…not enough time/discipline to stick with it, little to no result, which leads to frustration then quitting altogether.

Of course the effectiveness of the 80/20 split (as with any other weight management plan) is reliant on a 100% mindset.  As I mentioned earlier, the heavy lifting of this happens in the kitchen.  And if you ask me, I’d rather do the work there than by dragging myself in the gym.  That means to put in the planning and commit to some subtle changes in your diet to create that consistent deficit.  Simple things like cutting back on sugary soda and high calorie coffee drinks, and bringing a lunch from home rather than dipping thru the drive thru, are a fantastic place to start.  You’ll not only save yourself from HUNDREDS of sneaky, empty calories per day, but you’ll also notice that you have more money in your pocket.

Trust me…you can do this.  Small, incremental lifestyle improvements will pay off BIG TIME in your functional fitness and weight loss results if you make a plan and stay committed to it…one day at a time.