Physical Training for Strength, Stress Management & Improved Health.
Physical training (PT) is one of the simplest and easiest additions (or changes) that you can make in your life. Physical inactivity is rampant in the western world, and its effects lay dormant for years before you might experience the symptoms of one or more of the 35 health conditions that it is associated with—including premature death. Physical training is not much more than moving with some purpose on a consistent basis. It doesn’t have to be formal, occur in a facility fashioned with furniture, nor does it need to be planned around the rest of your day. It does require some time and consistency, and your focused attention inward. To get the lasting benefits from physical training, you need to think about consistently nudging your physiological homeostasis toward the direction you wish. E.g., if you want dysfunction and disease, just continue to sit or lie down all day and night, minimize your walking and activity levels, and your physiological homeostasis will slowly but certainly move toward “sedentary”; and harboring a highly aerobic animal such as we humans in a sedentary lifestyle leads to undesirable adaptations. Just think about it in lay terms—biology, i.e., “life”, works on the rule of use it or lose it—if you sit around a lot, the ability to move, in any definition, fades. And, it is the underlying physiological changes that support reduced movement capacity, which also causes your health problems.
Alternatively, if you are seeking fitness and health, you do have to engage in those physical activities that nudge homeostasis in the other and opposite direction: Adaptations that provide good systemic function. And when I say nudge, I mean just that… at the time of this writing, we as a culture are still in the grips of the, “no pain, no gain” mantra, characterized by boot camps, high-intensity training programs, and the other types of group beatdowns that many fitness centers offer the public. These strategies are great ways to peak for a performance, if positioned on top of a long and general base-building program—you have to be able to absorb intense training in order to peak for a competition. However, when programs like these are utilized by folks with low levels of fitness, their body goes into a sort of shock mode, releasing a lot of body fat and stress hormones. While seemingly promising, this will only last for so long before the system shows signs of dysfunction. As opposed to nudging, I call this, sledgehammer training—taking a sledgehammer to your homeostasis is not a good idea. There is a better way.
Gently nudging your body into improved fitness and function is not sexy and no one needs to yell at you. You just simply have to put the work in, day after day, at an intensity that you can recover from. There are two major aspects of physical training: Strength and endurance. Plenty of gurus through the years have boxed their own categories of health & fitness, but they all simply boil down to one of the above two. Strength encompasses everything from how you posture and move, to how much of a load you can handle. For examples of strength work, you can think of everything from the postures of yoga, to the motor skill (re)training of physical therapy, to the heavy barbell deadlift, and, to the shorter sets of kettlebell snatches.
Endurance is, quite simply, everything that goes into allowing you to work at duration. The lines between the two can be blurred by performing extended sets of resistance, or, by carrying loads for distance.
The very best way to increase your endurance is to locomote; that is, to walk, jog, or run. The very best way to improve your strength is to load your structure—period. The former does not require any equipment or special clothing, it simply requires your time and attention. The latter is not what you think it is: To get the desired adaptations from strength training, you simply need to lift load—lift it off the ground; lift it over your head; or lift it an carry it around—just put your self in between the ground and a load with as much of your body as you can. It doesn’t require a lot of time, but you do need something to lift.
You don’t have to make time for formal physical training sessions in order to reap the benefits of movement—simply add habitual behaviors into your daily routine such as doing sets of push-ups throughout the day; walking instead of driving to work or for closer errands; carrying packages from the market instead of using a cart; using the stairs instead of the elevator; getting out from behind your desk every hour or so to walk laps around the building and/or lift some object with a challenging weight; or switching from a traditional desk to a standing desk. Every bit of movement helps you change from sedentary closer to active. Sure, you absolutely can prioritize and schedule physical training into more formal sessions during your day, but not doing so doesn’t mean you can’t be active at all.
- Booth, et al., 2017. (doi: 10.1152/physrev.00019.2016)
- Kenney, Wilmore, & Costill, 2016. (ISBN-13: 978-1450477673)
- The American College of Sports Medicine. (http://www.acsm.org)