According to a World Health Organisation study of 168 countries and nearly 2 million people, the UK is among the least active countries in the world. Currently, about 80% of people in the UK are not getting the recommended 150 minutes of exercise a week.
The most terrifying thing is that we are becoming more and more inactive over time with the trajectory estimating things will get worse before they get better. This is contributing to an increase in a wide range of health concerns.
There are many factors in our modern world that make us less active. Our desk jobs, long working hours, driving rather than walking/cycling and too much screen time.
Oh and the good old British weather 🙂
However, whilst the reasons above are valid, another big factor is elitist and superficial gym culture along with social media.
The health and fitness industry is failing
Some people (including myself) actually enjoy doing exercise. Going to the park or the gym is something I look forward to. However, for the majority of people exercise is a chore. It’s on the new year’s resolution list, a form of punishment for over indulging on the mince pies.
The reality is that most of the fitness industry exists to make money, not to make you healthy. It is increasingly designed to manipulate you. How do you sell gym memberships and fitness classes? You make people worry about their physical flaws and unhealthy habits.
Pick up one of the latest fitness magazines and it’ll tell you which supplements you must take to melt away your belly fat whilst simultaneously crafting rock-hard abs.
Social media is full of superficial edited photos of someone with rock hard abs gives the illusion of perfection. It gives a false expectation of what can be achieved and will likely lead to disappointment.
Also, there is a big focus in the fitness industry to glorify a no pain, no gain approach to exercise. All the boot camps, army inspired workouts and ridiculously intense weight lifting routines are all part of the general glorification of pain.
And that’s the problem.
We are working and training ourselves to death. From a young age, we’re conditioned with the message that to be successful, we must work overtime, sacrifice our time, our health, friends and sanity to achieve what we want.
It’s ingrained in our psych that the harder and longer you are working, the better person you are. You are made to feel ashamed if you are not working flat out.
Working hard and being exhausted is a status symbol.
Yet in reality all this is really doing is causing many people to become stressed and anxious. The stats speak for themselves on this one.
It’s no wonder most people don’t even bother with any sort of physical activity.
But it’s time to evolve. It’s time to change.
The aforementioned overwhelmingly highlights that the status quo is not working for your health.
The fitness industry is at the forefront of preventative care and apart from diet it is the only way to offset immeasurable billions on health care costs and the scary rise of inactivity levels and disease.
Exercise must be attainable for everybody.
Motivation is the result of action
Whilst the aforementioned highlights the failings of the no pain, no gain and superficial approach of the fitness industry, this doesn’t mean that you can get away with not doing much.
The key is to find something that works for you.
A common excuse we use for not exercising is that we don’t have time. Yet at the same time we state that we want to be more active and healthy.
As humans, we think we are rational creatures making rational decisions. However, we are anything but rational. We are all flawed and ruled by our subconscious conditioning and resistance.
For example, you feel like you have to get motivated before you can do anything. However, waiting until you are motivated or for the perfect time will mean you never do it.
Moreover, we live in a society where we keep the indoor temperature adjusted to allow us to wear shorts and t-shirt all year round, lay on cushy beds with soft covers and shower with hot water and soap every single day.
Is all of this pampering making us intolerant to even mild physical discomfort? Maybe exercise isn’t too uncomfortable—maybe our everyday lives are a little too comfortable?
So, what’s the solution?
Most people exercise to lose weight or improve the aesthetic look of their body. But exercise has the potential to have far more benefits then this. From improving mental health to being part of a social community.
Therefore, I believe we should evolve our current thinking around exercise only as an ingredient to achieve weight loss/aesthetics?
What if the main purpose of exercise was to have fun? What if it was to be part of a social community? What if it was part of doing something together as a family?
I believe this would make it more attainable (and therefore sustainable) and therefore increase participation.
“The best form of exercise is whatever you enjoy and therefore can sustain consistently”
Far too many people sit on the sidelines because they think they have to do the traditional exercise routine – lift a little weights, run round the park etc.
Some options for you to consider are;
- Play Rabble games from dogeball to gladiators
- Choose an activity you enjoy: dance, martial arts, yoga, gardening, walking, swimming, football, badminton, tennis.. the list is endless
- Exercise with the family: play games with the kids like hide and seek, go to the playground, go for a walk while catching up with your parents
- Combine exercise with everyday chores: stand on one leg whilst cleaning teeth, squat whilst taking a shower, do your stretching and flexibility activities while you watch TV
- Find a buddy/friend to exercise with
- Join a social team: team sports clubs and walking groups
Just do something
Remember, most of the fitness industry’s goal is to make money, not to make you healthy or give you enjoyment.
If you are not sure what to do, just do something. What’s the worst that could happen?
Are you willing to let go of your “no pain no gain” programming to exercise, and let your health evolve in a natural way so that you’re still enjoying being active well into old age?
All health and fitness goals require sustained motivation. It’s an adventure, not a destination, and you’ll enjoy the adventure way more if you do it on your own terms doing something you enjoy instead of following the herd. So if you are someone who wants to be more active, try ignoring what the fitness industry tells you and focus on any kind of activity that you enjoy or gives you a sense of meaning.