2. Informal Exercise
2.1 Work Isn’t Exercise!
Exercising may be hard work, but hard work isn’t exercise.
A common mistaken belief is that if you perform hard work or heavy labor at your job, then you don’t really need to exercise during your nonworking hours. I remember talking to a city employee who repaired streets with a pneumatic drill or “jackhammer” all day long.
The man’s forearms were immense knotted muscles that had been developed through years of holding a heavy jackhammer in place to rip up old asphalt pavement. His wrists were powerful and he had a grip that made handshakes a must to avoid.
Yet when you looked past his arms, you saw a sagging potbelly, spindly legs, and stooped shoulders. His complexion was a dirty yellow, his eyes dulled, and his hearing almost gone from years of hammering at the pavement. Had his daily work kept him in good shape? Only the arms!
The sad fact is that most work performed today is not adequate, all-around exercise. “There are no less than 400 muscles in the body, each in need of regular exercise,” writes Dr. Herbert M. Shelton. “The belief that the ordinary activities of life provide adequate exercise for the muscles of the body is a blind one. Anyone may readily see this for himself when he examines the limited extent to which his muscular system is used in his daily activities. Even in the man who performs manual labor, many muscles are neglected. Modern specialization, both in work and in play or athletics, neglects many muscles.”
The busy mother and housewife who picks up dirty clothes and toys, straightens closets, and puts away dishes may be doing plenty of hard work, but very little significant exercise. Even a manual laborer such as a groundskeeper who mows, rakes, and trims yards for eight hours each day uses only a limited set of muscles.
Most work in the modern world, because of its highly repetitive, specialized and limited nature, cannot supply the full range of muscular activity that is required for beneficial exercise. This is one reason why people find work and their jobs so tiring.
“Modern man,” observes Dr. Shelton, “spends most of his working hours using but limited parts of his muscular system in specialized activities, and often using these only slightly, and so becomes but a caricature of a man. He is undeveloped, one-sidedly developed, and almost always lacking in vigor.”
Exercise actually increases our vigor. Energy expended during proper exercise is quickly returned following rest and relaxation. Not only that, but a half-hour of intense and concentrated exercising can accomplish more conditioning than a full day of hard manual work.
In contrasting the benefits of selective exercising versus most daily labor, Dr. Shelton notes: “Greater strength and development and more symmetrical development may be obtained by appropriate exercise than by most forms of physical work. Actual tests have shown, for instance, that a few minutes of proper exercise daily will produce a greater increase in the size of the arms, legs, back or chest in a given time than work will do.”
2.2 But Don’t Stop Working!
Although more can be gained in an hour of structured and regular exercise than can usually be obtained from a day of regular work, we can still use our jobs as a form of beneficial exercise. After all, we spend the greater portions of our lives involved in some sort of productive labor. By using our imagination and becoming more creative, we can turn our regular daily jobs into mini-exercise periods all through the day.
Perhaps one of the most effective ways to devise a lifestyle that includes vigorous activity is to incorporate exercising into your daily job. This method is appealing because it doesn’t take up much extra time. Since you’re already working, you might as well be getting some form of vigorous activity. Let’s look at a few case histories of people who have put the “exercise” back into their “work”.
2.3 Rub-adub-tub: Exercise in the Bathroom
One group of people who need to exercise the most are those that seem to have the least time: young mothers and busy housewives. “Exercise?! After changing diapers, scrubbing floors, and cleaning out the garage. Just give me rest, thank you,” said a young woman of three pre-school children.
Ann Dugan, a 55-year-old grandmother, however, disagrees. “You have to clean up the bathroom every day, and if you have to do it, you might as well make it productive,” said Dugan, author of 12 books on exercise and weight training. She developed a series of “at-home” exercise that housewives can do while getting the necessary housework out of the way.
“You might as well toughen up your body while you’re toughening up the bathroom,” said Dugan, who also emphasized that her exercises can be done in homes, offices, cars, and airplanes. “With all the bending and stretching needed to get to high shelves, inside cabinets, and under furniture, it’s easy to turn those movements into a tough workout.”
For example, Dugan suggests that when you clean your bathtub, instead of getting down on both hands and knees, you can kneel on the right knee only and clean the tub with the right hand. This position causes the pectoral muscles to be used and the hamstrings to be stretched. By reversing the knees, you can achieve an equalizing stretch while giving the shoulder and chest muscles a workout.
Even cleaning a toilet bowl can turn into a beneficial exercise by using Dugan’s “dip-and-disinfect” method. The cleaner stands, facing the toilet bowl, with legs bent so that the hips are low. The thighs should be parallel to the floor, with the left hand braced on the water tank as you scrub with the right hand. During this scrubbing process, you should raise and lower the heels at least ten times. This modified form of the “squat” exercise is the same one that is used by weightlifters to develop their lower bodies and reduce fat around the thighs.
Of course such intermittent exercising while doing housework cannot take the place of sustained and vigorous activity. Yet the extra bending, stretching, and flexing that may be done while at a regular job can help keep the body supple and ready for more intense physical activity later in the day or during the weekend leisure time.
2.4 Office Calisthenics
Some jobs, such as yard work, carpentry, construction, and farming, provide many opportunities for incorporating vigorous activity programs throughout the day. The construction worker may simply carry heavier and heavier loads while on the job to develop his musculature, while the farmer or gardener can take a shovel and hoe for an added hour of a combined exercise and work “workout.”
Even the deskbound office worker can add activities to his daily job routine that will sneak in valuable minutes of vigorous activity. Here’s how one Life Scientist got an hour’s worth of jogging in without ever leaving his office building!
“I worked on the sixth floor in a large office complex, and was behind a desk all day. My thinking became dulled and fuzzy from just all the inactivity. By the end of the day, I was so fatigued from the unnatural environment that I just couldn’t drag myself out to a track where I could run in the evenings. Then one day I read that climbing stairs actually gave more of a cardiovascular workout than jogging for the same amount of time.
“I rarely ate lunch while at work, since I was sitting most of the day, so I decided to get some on-site exercising done. Like other large buildings, my office had hidden flights of stairs for a fire escape.
Almost everybody rode the elevators, leaving the stairways unused. That day I walked down to the bottom of six flights of stairs, and then ran to the top. Walked down, and then ran to the top again. After twenty minutes of this running upstairs, I was breathing very heavily and my heart was pounding in my ears. I knew I was on to something good.
“Now everyday I’m out running up and down the stairs, sometimes three times a day in order to break up all the inactivity at my desk. I feel that I think much better after a period of stair-running. My only fear is that someday my co-workers will see me and think I’m running down the stairs because the building is on fire!”
Almost any job can be arranged so that small periods of vigorous activity can be performed. This is the easiest way and the first way that some people work exercise back into their daily routines.
So remember, while work may not be exercise, you can put the vigor back into work by slipping in some exercise periods of your own.
2.5 Daily Life As Exercise
Besides the working hours, our lives provide us with many other opportunities for including vigorous activity periods.
Gardening, lawn work, planting and harvesting your own food, improving and beautifying your natural surroundings—all of these outdoor activities increase our natural vigor and provide effective exercise.
Walking to our jobs or to the marketplace instead of driving provides valuable exercise while at the same time saving us money and conserving energy.
Performing our daily chores such as cleaning or sweeping at a fast rate of speed can turn a moderate work pace into a workout.
How can you determine how vigorous and effective your normal daily activities are?
One way to determine the vigor required for an activity is to measure how many calories of energy are expended if that activity were done for an hour. For example, a moderate walk burns around 200 calories per hour, while a steady jogging run can use up to 500 calories or more in the same time. The following chart will give you an idea of how strenuous some of our daily activities, athletics, and exercises can be:
|Sitting and reading||72|
|Sitting and eating||84|
|Sitting and knitting||90|
|Playing the piano||150|
|Farmwork in a field||438|
|Mowing the lawn||462|
Of course merely burning up calories is not the point of exercising, and this chart should not be used to equate various activities. (For example, ten hours of sleeping at 60 calories per hour is not equal to one hour of jogging at 600 calories!)
What you can learn from the above chart is that normal daily activities can vary a lot in the amount of vigor that they require to complete. By selecting more and more of the more strenuous activities as part of your normal daily routine, you’re getting more exercise into your life.
As you look for ways to turn your normal daily activities into mini-exercise periods, you’ll discover more and more chores that can be done vigorously and with beneficial results.
As Dr. Shelton reminds us, “The total activities of the day, and not merely the short time spent in formal exercise, are involved in the development of the body; hence it is important that all activity be performed correctly and with a view toward improving the total organism.”
Lesson 97 – Devising A Lifestyle That Includes Vigorous Activity
- 1. Introduction
- 2. Informal Exercise
- 3. Formal Exercise
- 4. Questions & Answers
- Article #1: Exercise: A Hygienic Perspective By Ralph C. Cinque, D.C.
- Article #2: Exercise: What Most Of Us Forget
- Article #3: Jogging And Other Vigorous Exercise
- Article #4: Hiking Is More Than Just Exercise By Marti Wheeler
- Article #5: Developing Your Arms